The Scottish Government has launched a trial of a four-day working week to test whether the practice could be rolled out country-wide.
Ministers confirmed a pilot was under way in the public sector from Wednesday, involving around 140 staff at South of Scotland Enterprise doing a 32-hour week without loss of pay.
Although this represents only three hours less per week, the shift to four day working is seen as key to changing people’s work-life balance.
The move, first announced by Humza Yousaf as part of his Programme for Government last September, was confirmed in a written parliamentary answer by economy secretary Neil Gray.
He said: “The Scottish Government can confirm today work has commenced on the 4 Day Working Week Public Sector Pilot to assess the wellbeing, environmental and productivity benefits a 4 Day Working Week could bring.
“We have appointed Autonomy as our expert partner to support the pilot. The team involved in this project have previous 4 Day Working Week pilot experience including from the Valencian Government pilot, and the Icelandic public sector pilot.
“The South of Scotland Enterprise 4 Day Working Week pathfinder work is being folded into Autonomy’s methodology, and engagement will continue with other public bodies interested in participating in the 32-hour working week pilot.
“Autonomy will also provide support and evaluate organisations moving to a contractual 35-hour working week. This will capture valuable insights from a wider range of public bodies on different shorter work week models and be included in the 4 Day Working Week evaluation report.”
The four-day working week is expected to be trialled for 12 months in the public sector, with an eye on a wider roll-out if it’s judged to be a success.
In 2022, a six-month pilot involving 61 companies employing 2,900 people in the UK ended with 56 of the firms reporting they would continue with the system, 18 permanently.
Employees involved in the previous trial reported feeling less stressed, anxious, fatigued and sleepless afterwards, while company revenues stayed broadly the same or higher.
The Scottish Greens Party and Parliamentary staff have already adopted a four-day working week with positive results.
Green MSP Ross Greer, said normalising a four-day working week with no loss of pay would transform workers’ health and wellbeing.
He said: “The four-day working week has a transformative impact on work-life balance, health and happiness.
“It means people can spend more time with their families, friends and loved ones and it helps employers retain staff and boost productivity.
“We have seen the benefits for ourselves, including better job satisfaction and a reduction in stress. The Scottish Government is rightly leading by example with these pilots.
“They will provide a lot of useful evidence and lessons which will in turn help other sectors and businesses to make the shift.”
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