Wales’ Future Generations Commissioner calls for shorter working week to save jobs

Sophie Howe – The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales is photographed at the Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye in Brecknockshire, South Wales.

The UK Government must consider a shorter working week to save jobs and rebuild the economy, the Future Generations Commissioner has said. 

Sophie Howe, alongside General Secretary of the Wales TUC Shavanah Taj, have written a joint letter calling on the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to consider changes before the furlough wage support scheme ends in October. 

A new model, they say, could combine a shorter working week with continued wage support to rescue jobs in the sectors hardest hit by coronavirus.

“We want recovery from the pandemic to support new ways of working that improve well-being, such as a shorter working week which would have a range of benefits including enhancing worker’s work-life balance, improving health, enabling workers to develop skills fit for the industries of the future, as well as supporting the job market,” the letter says.

“Waiting to see how this crisis continues to unfold and allowing businesses and workers to fall off a cliff edge at the end of October will not help us recover.”

 

Unemployment

The commissioner as also supported a Universal Basic Income and better connectivity to allow more home working and has urged the Welsh Government to prioritise a green recovery.

Flexibility around working hours could also protect businesses long-term, by allowing them to develop skills fit for the industries of the future, Sophie Howe said.

She also pointed to Wales TUC analysis that showed the government could create 59,000 jobs in Wales in two years by fast-tracking green infrastructure investment.

“We can’t afford to wait for mass unemployment – we can find a better way to support businesses, save jobs and improve well-being,” Sophie Howe said.

“The pandemic calls for new thinking and if we’re going to protect jobs now and in the future, we have to be flexible and accept that we can’t rely on old approaches to fix new problems.

“Remote and flexible working has helped prevent further job losses in lockdown and we have the opportunity to reset our working practices and be ambitious.”

Shavanah Taj of the Wales TUC said that the UK Government would have to act now to both protect and create jobs.  

“That means building on the furlough scheme by setting up a new job retention and upskilling deal, to keep people employed at firms that have a viable future,” she said.

“Young workers, including those entering into the world of work for the first time must have credible futures ahead of them.  

“Women workers in retail and hospitality sector have already been hit hard by current round of redundancies. Targeted support is needed now. 

 “When the crisis began, the chancellor said he would do ‘whatever it takes’. He must keep that promise.” 

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