Could a 4-day work week work? California ponders it

A hiring sign is displayed at a restaurant in Schaumburg, Ill., Friday, April 1, 2022. Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs remain at historically low levels. Jobless claims fell by 5,000 to 166,000 for the week ending April 2, the Labor Department reported Thursday. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(NewsNation) —  The idea of working four days a week would be appealing to just about anyone, and a new bill under consideration in California might make it a reality.

The bill would require a 32-hour week for companies with 500 employees or more, with overtime paid past that. Employees’ pay rates would stay the same as for a 40-hour week. California would be the first state to put the concept into practice, although it’s been pondered in various forms for decades.

“I think the pandemic really laid bare just how difficult working in this environment where workers are putting themselves at risk every single day when they come to work,” said Steve Smith, California Labor Federation communications director. “This is certainly worthy of debate and discussion but at this point there are some things about the legislation that we’re concerned about while at the same time we appreciate the authors, we appreciate the discussion that this bill is generating around that work life balance.”

The California Chamber of Commerce is staunchly opposed to the bill, calling it a “job killer” that will increase labor costs, impact job growth and reduce opportunities for workers.

On the other side, Assemblyman Evan Low, who co-authored the bill, says it addresses burnout and high turnover rates by allowing flexibility in the workplace. “The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for workers to evaluate the employer/employee relationship. With no relief in sight from corporate burnout, workers are demanding more work-life balance from their employers, evidenced by the Great Resignation,” Low said.

Other countries have already implemented or at least experimented with a four-day work week including Scotland, Belgium, Spain and Japan. The earliest studies show it led to an improved work-life balance and increased productivity for employees while reducing operating expenses for businesses.

The bill is currently winding its way through the California Legislature.


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