Spain to test four-day, 32-hour working week sparking hopes UK could be next

While several governments have discussed abandoning the 5-day week, Spain is set to become the first country to actually take the plunge and introduce a standard four-day, 32-hour working week.

The USA officially adopted the five-day system in 1932, in a bid to counter the unemployment caused by the Great Depression.

The UK followed suit soon after and the Monday-to-Friday routine has become the standard for office workers all over the world.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has recently raised the idea of a four-day week, saying it would provide an overall boost to the economy by giving people more opportunities to get out and put money back into the economy.

While she acknowledged that there were some practical obstacles for employers and workers to overcome, she added: “I’ve said there's just so much we've learnt about Covid and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that.

"Think about if that's something that would work for your workplace, because it certainly would help tourism all around the country."

There will no doubt be hopes the UK will be next.

In Spain, the birthplace of the siesta, the government is setting those concerns aside and going for it. The idea was raised by minority left wing party Más País, and in December Deputy Prime Minister, Pablo Iglesias of the Podemos party said the move would be going ahead.

It’s thought that the details should be thrashed out enough for the Spanish experiment to begin in earnest the autumn.

Spain will be the first country to undertake a trial of this magnitude,” said Héctor Tejero of Más País. “A pilot project like this hasn’t been undertaken anywhere in the world.”

Costs incurred by companies moving into the four-day work week are expected to be covered by the government on a sliding scale, with 100% the paid in the first year, 50% the second year and 33% the third year.

Not everyone's a fan of the idea. Ricardo Mur of Spanish business federation CEOE described the four-day week ideas as "madness" and said “getting out of this crisis requires more work, not less."

But some companies have already gone ahead with the idea.

Spanish company Software Delsol pioneered a four-day working week in January 2020. “They saw a reduction in absenteeism, productivity went up and workers say they are happier,” said Tejero.

In the UK, online marketing company Awin are trialling a 4-day week for their 1,000-strong workforce and a poll carried out by the 4 Day Week Campaign in September showed that around 79% of UK business leaders were open to the idea.

A source within Spain’s industry ministry told the Guardian that talks about the 4-day week pilot were still in their initial stages.

At this point everything is up for debate, she said, from the cost of the pilot to the number of companies involved and the precise timeline.

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