“Do we think spending all our time making profits for massive companies is a good use of that time?” – Readers' debate a four-day working week

After Scotland followed the lead of European countries like Iceland in announcing a trial of a four-day working week (in some sectors), we asked our readers if they thought the same idea should be applied to England.

Monday, 6th September 2021, 4:11 pm

Naturally, peoples’ opinions varied quite widely for what was an interesting and insightful debate. Here are a selection of our readers’ comments on the topic:

Sandra Elizabeth Haith responded and quite a few of our readers agreed with her take on things, when she said; “Definitely. Working people in this country are scape goats for those who are afraid of work. Encourage working by not making it beneficial not to work and let's get a fairer society where MORE workers allow us to enjoy a little bit more leisure time. At the moment SOME of us will just work til we drop.”

A few replied to Sandra’s take on the topic, such as John Hughes who said that he “Could not agree more. When on benefits ppl should receive money to pay for accomodation, utilities and food, anything else is not essential. Make the minimum wage at least twice what u can obtain by staying at home and then lets see how many ppl decide to work.”

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GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 03: A welder works on a type 45 destroyer being built in Govan shipyard on July 3, 2008 in Glasgow, Scotland. Defence Secretary Des Browne, visited the yard to announce a new Ministry of Defence contract, worth an estimated ?3.2 billion to build the UK's biggest ever aircraft carriers. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

To which Sandra replied once more, saying “I agree. There is no incentive to work. Look at the lorry driver situation and harvesting. We are reliant on foreign workers when we have thousands of fit people on the dole who could be trained up or asked to earn their keep. But of course it's against human rights to force people to do what they don't want. I am (was) a trained secretary but I worked in a factory when my kids were young. I didn't like it but I did it. That's life!”

Heather Tingle believes that “People’s mental and physical health would be better if a 4 day week, but my concern would be prices increase to pay for it, people end up working overtime to be able to afford to live so still no better off. Maybe universal basic income would be an option?”

And, Margaret Mark said “Yes and reduce the age of retirement to 63 to let younger fitter people have the jobs.” This was something that a couple of others agreed with, like Angela Allen who would prefer a reduced “retirement age instead of expecting people to work till they drop!”

Lea Turner agreed, recalling a moment from her youth, “When I was at school ( long time ago) computers were just coming into the workplace, and I remember being told it will.make the working man's life easier, ie shorter working week and more time with family. One of the biggest lies ever, 50 years later both parents are working just to make basic wages....so yes it should be shorter working week, give more people a job, the young ones are struggling to find work.”

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And Glenda Unwin pointed out that “Jeremy Corbyn wanted to try this [and put it] in his manifesto”

Not everyone is sold on the idea though, as was the case with Phil Mehew, who replied; “Lol, so how does that work…is there some magic money tree to make up the shortfall in revenue?”

Wayne Tolson responded to Phil, saying “On that one for a while, still do 37 hours, it's in the UK and saving the company ££. It has advantages for the company 1 day less start up and shutdown costs, contractor service and maintenance cost at normal time rates. Heating and lighting costs reduced. It suits me fine. Basically a bank holiday every week. The down side you lose the Friday bank holidays.”

It clearly struck a nerve with some, like Martin Ashworth who responded; “Speaking as an employer……the government should keep their frigging nose out and stop interfering and ballsing up everything they touch.”

Meanwhile Tim Rudland believes that it is a “Terrible idea for the economy. Really we should go the other way and do six days if we want to bounce back from the recent covid dip for the economy”, and naturally this garnered a few responses, Pete Frost said that he had done “it for 10 years. Monday to Thursday. We worked the same amount of hours but just condensed them into four days. 20% less travel to work, which is good for the environment and your pocket. Chance to take on a bit of part time if you're skint . The company saves on power and absence. Wins all round.”

Another person who was dubious of the whole idea was Hudson David, who queried, “How many companies could afford this 4 day week without pay. Not many, they will go bust thus people will loose their jobs. So good thinking.” To which PJ Eriksen replied saying “didn't people say the same thing when they introduced the minimum wage?”

Janet Abrahams noted that “France’s productivity levels are way above ours. And a much shorter working week. Law of diminishing returns?”

Finally, Michael Short put it all into perspective here with his thoughs on the matter; “Of course we should. People think they're being good little workers by toiling all their lives to make some rich person that little bit richer. The amount of people I've encountered who've proudly never taken a day off sick or barely take any holidays, and think it means something, to then just be made redundant as soon as the company can't exploit them anymore. This is the one life we have. In all probability, after this there's nothing and there never will be again. Your one life in all eternity. Do we really think spending all our time making profits for massive companies is a good use of that time?"

In conclusion it seems that many people are in favour, wherever feasible, and on the other hand many are also against the idea of a four-day week. Some UK companies already do a four-day week and this combines all of the regular working hours across four days (e.g. 37.5/40 hours over four days). But a number of people see the positives of such a system as it would mean that people are less under the onus of live to work rather than working to live. We suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how this trial goes in Scotland and if successful it can be implemented here.

Once again, thank you all for your thoughts, musings and comments on the topic.