This browser is not actively supported anymore. For the best passle experience, we strongly recommend you upgrade your browser.

Legal insights & industry updates

| 1 minute read

Is the UK edging closer to a four-day working week?

Six months ago 61 companies took part in a trial of a four-day working week, with no reduction in salary. Now, at the end of the trial, 56 of those companies intend to continue with the four-day week with 18 deciding to make it a permanent change. According to surveys of participating employees taken before and after, 39% felt less stressed, 40% were sleeping better and 54% reported it was easier to balance work and home responsibilities.  Further, there was a reduction in sick days and compared to the same period a year earlier, there was a 57% reduction in staff leaving.

Some of those companies taking part in the trial did extend the working hours for employees on the four days of the week they were working. For many four-day working week purists, this is not the goal. Employers involved in the trial also reported that sometimes some work needed to be done on the non-working day. At least one employer which took part had to hire additional staff for part of their business to allow for the four-day week.  

The results of this trial are, for the most part, positive and highlight some of the real benefits that can potentially come from introducing a four-day week. However, it seems unlikely at this stage that the Government would look to legislate to make a four-day working week the norm. In the Government's December 2022 response to its flexible working consultation, it stated: “there is no one-size-fits-all approach to work arrangements” and while that wasn't specifically concerning a four-day working week, it does provide some insight into the Government's general approach. 

Regarding employees' current legal rights, they can make a flexible working request provided they have 26 weeks' continuous service. Having said that, the Government's Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill would make it a day one right to make a flexible working request. Employers can only refuse a flexible working request based on eight specified business reasons. Employers may see employees referring to the results of this trial in support of any flexible working request for a four-day week. Still, employers will retain the right to refuse the request where this is justified on the grounds of one of the business reasons.

One thing to keep an eye on will be whether the results of this trial have a wider impact on the choices employers make about how they structure their businesses.

The vast majority of companies taking part in the world’s largest trial of a four-day week have opted to continue with the new working pattern, in a result hailed as evidence that it could work across the UK economy


employment law