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UK council to become first to trial four-day working week for staff

Tom Wood

Published 
| Last updated 

UK council to become first to trial four-day working week for staff

A council in the UK is set to become the first to trial a four-day working week for staff. 

South Cambridgeshire District Council is looking at implementing the trial in January, with the new working week taken on for desk-based staff.

Currently, according to the 4 Day Week Campaign, 70 UK companies are currently trialling the potentially revolutionary working hour change, amounting to 3,300 staff overall.

In a report, the council stated that if cabinet members agree to the trial, the impact on services to residents and businesses will be closely monitored, as they cannot drop if the trial is to be a success.

They cited recruitment issues and a new understanding of the work/life balance as behind the reasoning for the trial.

The trial is aimed at helping to recruit new staff and retain existing staff. Credit: Pexels
The trial is aimed at helping to recruit new staff and retain existing staff. Credit: Pexels

For over a year, the council has been unable to fill eight out of 10 vacancies, with that figure increasing to around half of vacancies between January and March.

To recruit agency staff would cost £2,000,000 per year, whereas filling the posts with permanent staff would come out at around £1,000,000.

The trial will also include an extension to public opening hours through a webchat service or Teams/Zoom meetings.

So, during the proposed trial the staff will work 30 hours per week, with an extra day off, for the same salary.

That’s different to a compressed week, where the standard 40 hours would be worked over less days.

The council hopes this will make them an attractive employer, as well as having the additional benefit of encouraging existing staff to stay with them.

Councillor Bridget Smith, the leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “The trial would be all about seeing if a four-day week has the same positive impact on productivity, staff wellbeing and recruitment in Local Government, as seen elsewhere.

“As a Council we are leading the way on this; it could be truly ground-breaking for local councils nationally.

“We only filled around half our vacancies during the first few months of this year and using temporary agency staff in these office roles costs us more than £2 million a year.

“We know that if we instead filled those roles permanently, it would only cost around £1 million a year.

“As we look for solutions to these issues, these proposals suggest a robust, evidence-based trial for three months. Of course, it must be a trial that works for our residents and businesses too.”

Cllr Smith continued: “Attracting and retaining staff is an issue for most councils. Therefore, along with lots of organisations from around the world, we think this is something that is worth investigating.

The council aims to run the trial in January next year. Credit: Pexels
The council aims to run the trial in January next year. Credit: Pexels

“Not only could it help with the wellbeing and retention of our existing staff, but I am hugely keen that we open ourselves up as an employer to a more diverse workforce.

“As a carer to my 92-year-old mother, I realise just how costly caring can be. The same can of course be said of childcare.

“If we can reduce the burden of these sorts of costs, which will also help with the cost of living, we could become an employer of choice for far more people who for very valid reasons simply cannot work the standard 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.”

Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, added: “The decision by South Cambridgeshire District Council to outline plans to become the first ever UK local authority to trial a four-day week is historic and should be applauded.

“This move could benefit thousands of workers, improve productivity, and help to tackle the job recruitment crisis in Local Government.

“We hope this trial, if approved, results in many more councils across the country embracing the four-day week.”

The cabinet is set to vote on whether to proceed with the trial on Monday 12 September 2022.

Featured Image Credit: Jacob Lund/August_0802/Shutterstock

Topics: UK News, Money, Politics

Tom Wood
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