Four-day working week could help to prevent family breakdowns, campaigners say


A four day working week would mean more happy families and fewer marriage breakdowns, a poll suggests.

Time with family is the overwhelming first choice for how workers would spend their extra time off.

More than half those polled by Survation welcomed a move to a four day week as a way of spending more leisure hours with the family – as long as there was no drop in pay.

Supporters say changes in work habits during the pandemic have made the shift to a shorter week inevitable.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under pressure from MPs and think tanks to consider the move to boost jobs in the face of the threatened post Covid surge in unemployment this autumn.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under pressure over the threat of waves of unemployment in the autumn

Studies suggest a clear link between long working hours and family breakdown. Overworking leads to stress causing family tensions, high blood pressure, strokes, excessive drinking and absence from work.

Joe Ryle, of the 4 Day Week Campaign which commissioned  the survey, said: “A four day working week would result in a much happier and healthier country as people spend more time with family and friends.

“We need to end the culture where working all the time is seen as a badge of honour.”

The poll showed 53% would spend the extra time with family, 39% would catch up with “rest”, 38% would spend more time with friends and 36% would do more exercise.

The idea is already being considered in Scotland, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set up a Post Covid-19 Futures Commission to report this autumn.

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In Japan, productivity went up 40% in a trial of four-day working by Microsoft. 

Supporters, including the TUC, say the move would increase employment by divvying up jobs.

Critics say it would cost the economy up to £45 billion a year. Government figures suggest stress through overwork is currently costing the economy £5 billion a year with 11 million working days lost to working stress every year.

Harry Benson, research director of the Marriage Foundation, said there was early evidence that longer time under lockdown had had a “very positive” effect on couples’ relationships.

But he warned the additional time spent together should not be wasted or taken for granted.

“It’s about what you do with that time. And that depends on big picture factors like attitude and commitment.”

Labour’s Clive Lewis, one of a cross-party group of MPs who earlier this year backed a Commons motion calling on the Government to set up a commission into the four day week, said: “A five-day week means people don’t have enough time to spend with their family and to repair broken personal relationships.

“Covid has changed the world of work irreversibly. The time has come for a four-day week to become the norm.”

Research by the Family Friendly campaign group  in Ireland said: “We have to consider the positive impact on the family unit as a whole.

“We are quite confident it would be better for family time.”





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