We are writing to you to request that the government consider exploring shorter working time for the UK, including a four-day working week, as one route out of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Work patterns have already been dramatically altered as a result of the pandemic and we believe the time is now right to explore putting a four-day, 30-hour working week (or any equivalent variation) front and centre – including protections for those on low incomes – as the country unites behind building back better out of this crisis.
Three quarters of UK workers already supported a four-day working week before the Coronavirus pandemic hit and millions of workers have now had a taste of working remotely and on different hours. It’s in no one’s interests to return back to the pressure and stress that people were under before this pandemic.
We know that more than half of UK workers are unhappy in their jobs and more than two thirds are stressed or overworked. According to the Health and Safety Executive, one in four of all sick days lost are the direct result of overwork.
A four-day week would bring multiple benefits to society, the environment, our democracy, and our economy (through increased productivity). One of the biggest impacts would be better mental health and wellbeing across the board with more time available for socialising, family life and community.
Furthermore, with an unemployment crisis on the horizon, shorter working time presents itself as one of the best options for fundamentally restructuring the economy so that work is shared more equally. A four-day week would give many more opportunities to the growing list of unemployed people which already stands at 2.8 million people.
Shorter working time has been used throughout history as a way of responding to economic crises. They were used as a way of reducing unemployment during the Great Depression of the 1930s, which led to the normalisation of the eight-hour day and the 40-hour week. Shorter working time should once again be seen as a powerful tool to recover from this crisis. Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister has already spoken about the four-day week as a key way in which New Zealand’s economy can recover from the crisis.
As you will be aware, the Scottish Government announced in May a new Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission which will explore the potential for a four-day working week. We’re urging your government to show the same commitment towards a better future for the UK by setting up a similar commission – looking at the range of options and models related to shorter working time which the UK could deploy.
We’re very keen to work with you on this and look forward to hearing your response.
Aidan Harper, 4 Day Week Campaign
Will Stronge, Autonomy
Mary-Ann Stephenson, Women’s Budget Group
John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington
Mhairi Black, SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion
Jon Trickett, Labour MP for Hemsworth
Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South
Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck
Zarah Sultana, Labour MP for Coventry South
Kate Osborne, Labour MP for Jarrow
Ian Bryne, Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby
Claudia Webbe, Labour MP for Leicester East
Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Human Geography at Oxford University
Neal Lawson, Director of Compass
Faiza Shaheen, Director of Class
Dave Ward, General Secretary of the CWU
Ian Waddell, General Secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding & Engineering Unions
Owen Jones, Guardian
David Graeber, Anthropology Professor at The London School of Economics
Deborah Hermanns, Project Manager Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung GB (personal capacity)
Mark Hooper, founder of IndyCube