The Labour Party announced a new commitment at its annual conference in Brighton to reduce the average working time to 32 hours a week within the next 10 years.
The new commitment would mean that British workers in full-time employment could reduce their working hours without losing any pay. This would also include increases to statutory annual leave, without affecting current levels of unemployment, which are at near record lows of 3.8%.
In a speech in Brighton at the annual conference this week, McDonnell hailed a four-day week and said that Labour would officially end in-work poverty, with workplace rights restored and a Real Living Wage of £10 an hour.
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) September 23, 2019
It is unclear what the costs would be to implement a reduction of working hours, as businesses would have to account for lost productivity, and a more rigid labour market if working hours were restricted. Other countries in Europe which have pushed for fewer working hours include France with its mandatory 35-hour working week, however unemployment in France remains at 8.5% 10 years after the 2008-9 recession.
However, there could be many benefits to a shorter working week as it would give people more time with their loved ones and their families, with increased time off.
The CBI criticised the policy and asked how businesses could reduce their output while maintaining the same level of pay to all its workers, which would lead to a loss in profitability and “risk hanging a ‘closed sign” on the economy. However others have argued that reducing workloads could improve productivity, with remote working being a factor in increasing wellbeing and leading to better results for companies.
Could a 32-hour week be feasible?