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Would a three day weekend benefit the economy?

A four day working week and a three day weekend has long been dreamt of by many UK workers and recently the Green Party announced that they would make it a reality by announcing it as one of their manifesto pledges for 2020.

For many, an extra day off every week would provide the opportunity to relax or finally tackle some of those jobs that they have simply not had time to do. However, the Green Party’s joint leaders, Jonathan Bartley and Caroline Lucas, think there are greater benefits to come from a three day weekend to improve the health and happiness levels of the UK population.

They say that by working one day less a week it would help to alleviate ill health and the rising levels of mental health conditions which are blighting a stressed and exhausted workforce. As people are working longer hours and taking on second jobs, Britain’s population is finding it harder to switch off and relax.

Caroline Lucas spoke about our inability to switch off when she announced the manifesto on the BBC recently. She said; “We’re bringing our work with us every time we go home in the evenings, at the weekends.”

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They also raised the point that by working one day less a week, we would become more productive as a country. It is a statement that many will find counter-intuitive but there is some evidence that a four day working week does indeed make employees more productive. Ms. Lucas said; “I think there’s a lot of evidence that suggests that when people are exhausted their productivity goes down.”

Although there seems to be many benefits to this proposal, some people do not see how working one day less a week will benefit the UK and our productivity. They state that our productivity levels are already low and by having an extra day off every week, we will fall further away from our productivity targets.

Also, due to flexible working laws, many people do not see the point of bringing in a three day weekend as much of the workforce already have the option of this. However, in some sectors and for certain types of work, such as part time or temporary, there is less flexibility which can become an issue, particularly for those working two part time jobs.

Plus, there is also the issue of pay, when taking advantage of flexible working for a three day weekend you are very likely to lose a day’s pay from your weekly wages. Since the proposal has been announced, many journalists and industry professionals have commented that pay is one of the first things that will need tackling if a three day weekend becomes law.

To stop people losing out in their pay packet, wages will need to go up. Research from the New Economic Foundation suggests the state should share the cost with employers with pay increases introduced gradually to safeguard business finances.

Another key point for consideration, as raised in The Guardian recently, deals with the redistribution of working hours. They suggest that hours being missed could be picked up by others if there is a need for this in the particular company.

This will not only ensure work gets done but it will tackle the problem of reducing the workloads of those who are overworked in their role. By employing someone else to pick up the additional hours, it has the potential to help tackle the underemployment levels in Britain by making more roles available, especially in skilled and niche areas.

Whether this proposal ever becomes law, it is too early to tell but as a country whose workers spend more hours working than almost all of our Northern European counterparts, there is definitely scope for research into the amount of weekly working hours of our neighbours and their productivity levels compared with our own.

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