A four-day working week is to be introduced for staff at one of the UK’s big four supermarkets.
More than 1,500 workers at Morrisons’ head office will be paid the same to do a day less as part of a major shake-up of working practices at the retail giant.
The scheme will see them do nine-hours instead of eight with a six-hour Saturday shift once a month.
Clare Grainger, people director with the Yorkshire retail giant, said: “These new improvements to our ways of working will enable us to be more flexible and responsive and will make Morrisons a place where more people will want to join and stay.”
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, she added: “We’ve shown over the last few months how we can continue to run our business while many colleagues work from home, enabled by much greater flexibility and digital working. These new ways of working will simplify and speed up our business and improve our competitiveness.”
The new rules will not be applied to shop staff who tend to work a rota system.
A four-day week has become an increasingly popular concept in recent years with campaigners saying it would not only create a better work-life balance but could actually increase productivity because evidence suggests better refreshed staff are more motivated. They also argue it would stimulate the economy by giving people extra time to spend on leisure activities.
It was among one of the many ideas floated by Labour during Jeremy Corbyn’s scattergun election campaign in December.
The party’s suggestion it would look into a policy of a limiting the working week to just 32 hours failed to register with voters amid promises of free broadband, free prescriptions and scrapping of university tuition fees.
But the concept has now gained fresh momentum in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
At the end of June, a cross-bench group of MPs – including form shadow chancellor John McDonnell and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas – wrote to chancellor Rishi Sunak suggesting a four-day week could boost certain sectors of the economy while also providing more job opportunities amid rising unemployment.
“Shorter working time has been used throughout history as a way of responding to economic crises,” they wrote. “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.
“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 and community.”
The letter said three-quarters of workers supported the concept. “It’s in no one’s interests to return back to the pressure and stress that people were under before this pandemic,” it concluded.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies