Spanish 4 Day Work Week Experiment

In response to the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on employment in Spain, the Spanish authorities have proposed introducing a trial of a four-day work week across the country. These plans were first revealed in December, with some firms now able to choose to cut their employees working hours from the national average of 37.5 hours a week to 32 hours a week, without cutting the amount that they are paid. Although the scheme is currently in its pilot phase, if it is successful it could be rolled out in a more widespread way. Here we explain what the scheme would mean both for employers and employees:

What is the Four-Day Work Week Experiment?

The four-day work week experiment will see the government provide financial support to firms that allow their employees to work fewer hours, without suffering a drop in their earnings. The initial trial of the scheme will cost the Spanish government around €50 million. First proposed by the left-wing opposition party, Más País, the guidelines for the implementation of this innovative project haven’t been hashed out yet, but it is thought that we will get further details of the scheme in the coming weeks. It is important to note that the current government relies on the support of the smaller Mas Pais party for congressional support, which may well explain why their left field scheme has gained such traction.

Many Spanish businesses are unsure about how feasible the model will be for their businesses, but in response to these concerns the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón, responded that "The eight-hour working day was unrealistic a century ago."

What is the Aim of the Four-Day Work Week?

The aim of the four-day work week in a nutshell is to help Spain tackle the economic, healthcare, and social crises that the country has unexpectedly found itself in as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. It is thought that ensuring the populous engage in shorter working hours is one of the best ways to ensure that the existing workload that is available during a period of economic uncertainty is spread more equally across the economy.

This scheme is likely to appeal to employees as they are not experiencing any loss of pay, whilst business owners are likely to be more inclined to try the scheme as it is financially backed by the government, meaning that there is no financial risk involved in taking part in the pilot. Ultimately, the aim of the scheme is to preserve jobs, keeping people in employment even when workloads amongst certain industries may be lessened.

Could This Lead to a Four-Day Work Week in the UK?

The concept of a four-day work week is something that has already been proposed in the UK. Autonomy, a UK based think-tank have given considerable thought to the concept, and have created a road map that has been distributed to the UK government which clearly shows how the country could make the move to a shorter working week. This is not something that has been discussed or proposed at a governmental level, however, but perhaps if the trial is successful in Spain the country could act as something of a trail blazer for the scheme to spread to the rest of Europe and into the UK too.

According to Joe Ryle, a campaigner with the 4 Day Week UK Campaign: “This could pave the way for Spain to become the first country in the world to move towards a four-day working week. We know from history that shorter working hours are the best way of spreading existing work more equally across the economy in times of economic recession and crisis. The UK government and the rest of the world should learn from the Spanish example and embrace shorter working hours in response to the Covid pandemic.”

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