Labour MP tables first ever parliamentary bill to bring in four-day working week

The measure is currently being trialled by more than 3,000 workers across 70 companies

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Sunday 25 September 2022 08:06 BST
British workers clock up the longest hours in Europe
British workers clock up the longest hours in Europe (Getty)

A Labour MP has tabled a parliamentary bill that would effectively cut the working week for all employees to four days. Peter Dowd said British workers currently clock up the longest hours in Europe.

Under the plans, the official working week would be set at 32 hours, and any work beyond that would have to be paid by employers as overtime, at 1.5 times the worker’s ordinary rate of pay.

Parliamentary time has been secured for the bill to be discussed in the House of Commons in mid-October.

“I am introducing this legislation because we’re long overdue a shorter working week,” said Mr Dowd, the Labour MP for Bootle.

“In the UK, workers put in some of the longest working hours across Europe, while pay and productivity remain low in comparison. In numerous examples across the world, the four-day week, with no loss of pay, has been shown to boost productivity and the wellbeing of workers.”

The government is highly unlikely to back the legislation, but it is the first time a four-day-week bill has made it to parliament.

In 2012, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng, along with fellow Tory MPs Dominic Raab, Priti Patel and Chris Skidmore, said that the UK’s working hours were already too short. They claimed in their book Britannia Unchained that British workers were “among the worst idlers in the world”, and that “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”.

But over the summer, an assessment by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy admitted that a four-day week “may work” for some companies. Officials said individual businesses could choose to adopt the practice, but that there were “no plans” to mandate it.

More than 70 companies and 3,300 workers across the UK are currently taking part in the world’s biggest ever trial of a four-day working week.

The companies have cut working hours for their staff with no loss of pay.

Preliminary results from the trial, released this week, found that 86 per cent of companies taking part are likely to retain the new working practice.

At the halfway point in the trial, 88 per cent said the change was working well for their business. Forty-six per cent of the businesses said their productivity had remained around the same level, and 34 per cent said it had improved slightly, while 15 per cent said it had improved significantly.

Earlier this month, South Cambridgeshire District Council announced plans to become the first UK local authority to pilot the radical measure.

Commenting on Mr Dowd’s bill, Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, said: “This bill gives every British worker the chance of moving to a four-day week.

“Imagine how much happier we would all be. It would give us the time to properly rest, enjoy a better quality of life, and boost productivity at work.

“The 9-to-5, five-day working week is outdated and no longer fit for purpose.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in