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Welsh Conservatives raise concerns over four-day working week report

09 Apr 2024 5 minute read
Recommendations of the 4-Day Week Working Group were published last week.

Emily Price

The Welsh Conservatives have raised concerns that a four-day working week in Wales would create a two-tier working environment with only employees in specific sectors benefitting.

Last week, the Welsh Government published a report and recommendations of the Workforce Partnership Council’s Four-Day Week Working Group.

The group was established in April last year to consider issues relating to a four-day week.

It’s findings listed several benefits to a shorter working week and recommended a pilot in devolved public services.

The working group concluded the four-day week is a “progressive and innovative” way of working which “merits further consideration”.

But the Tories in the Senedd say the Labour Welsh Government would effectively be reducing the hours worked by the public sector for the same amount of pay.

Shadow Minister for Social Partnership, Joel James, said: “The major problem of the four-day working week is that it cannot be rolled out across every sector, meaning that it will create a two-tier working environment, with office based public sector workers obtaining a privilege that cannot be enjoyed by most private sector workers and many frontline public sector workers.

“By introducing a four-day working week the Labour Welsh Government would effectively be reducing the hours worked by the public sector for the same pay.

“This is not the same as many four-day working trials in the private sector that have simply allowed workers to work the same hours over four days instead of five days.

“The Welsh Conservatives propose that the same benefits of a four-day working week can be obtained by improving the flexibility of workers to take time off to balance family life and other commitments.”


The working group determined the following benefits to a four-day week:

  • Improved work-life balance: Shorter contracted hours, with no loss of pay, changes favourably the balance between the proportion of their time that workers spend at work, enabling workers to balance their responsibilities at work with their life outside of work.
  • Reduced risk of worker burnout and better physical and mental health: Shorter working hours helps prevent burnout and affords workers with more time in which to rest and recover, with less fatigue and lower levels of stress.
  • Improved recruitment and retention and job satisfaction: Adopting a 4-day week provides for a distinctive offer which sets the employer apart from others, it also provides workers with an effective increase in the hourly rate of pay (since they are working fewer hours with no loss of pay).
  • Greater inclusivity: The Working Group considered that a significant reduction on normal contracted hours could have a transformative effect on the workforce, leading to greater levels of inclusion for workers with caring responsibilities in particular.
  • Increased productivity and organisational performance: The Working Group heard how the benefits above had contributed to improved levels of productivity and reductions in sickness absences. The Working Group recognised the correlation between wellbeing and productivity, acknowledging that workers who are well rested, happy and who have high levels of job satisfaction are likely to be more effective in their roles.


However, the working group has cautioned against a “top-down pilot” imposed on employers and workers.

They said any pilot must be based on an employer who is ready and willing to “discuss, consult and negotiate” with their workforce and trade unions on what a 4-day pilot would look like.

The group also identified several risks to the shortened working week:

  • Equality risks: The risk of widening existing inequalities between groups of workers i.e. office workers versus those on the frontline, particularly in 24/7 operations.
  • Financial risks: The risk that employers may need to meet the costs of recruiting additional workers.
  • Undeclared hours and work intensity risks: The risk of a rise in undeclared working hours, as workers try to fit the same workload into a smaller number of working hours.
  • Service delivery risks: The broad concern around how 24/7 services could be maintained.
  • Personal risks: The potential for “hidden” personal costs of shorter working hours, such as heating a home during hours that would otherwise have been spent at work or the costs of undertaking leisure pursuits during the additional free time.
  • Team management risks: Potential increased risks of managing teams working more complex shift schedules needed to maintain coverage.

The group noted that any moves to a four-day week must be “mindful are undertaken fairly” and in ways that avoid the creation of a two-tier workforce of “haves and have-nots.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “There are no plans to introduce a 4-day week across the public sector in Wales.

“Whilst the working group identified a range of potential benefits, they also highlighted the many complexities involved in adopting a 4-day week and the impact these could have on a range of groups and individuals.”

Joe Ryle, Director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, said: “Claims that a four-day week could ‘widen inequality’ are wrong and way off the mark.

“Those that stand to benefit most from a four-day week include disabled people and those with caring responsibilities for whom an extra day off work each week (with no loss in pay) will make a tremendous difference.

“Numerous studies and trials have shown that a four-day week is a win-win for both workers and employers.”

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1 month ago

Bunch of blithering idiots. I could say the same for me not being the CEO of BP, that is two tier, he is rich and I am poor. Hells bells. If there is an option to better peoples lives, the Conservatives don’t like it. Different work patterns that benefit the WORKERS is often well worth the attempt find how it will work. Of course there are situations where it is not suitable, that gets you a “DUH!”. Top tip to the cons, industries have been working it for decades, just that it is now being recognised for a wider roll… Read more »

1 month ago

Since when did the Conservatives start worrying about haves and havenots… Did I miss something?

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
1 month ago

I’m open to have my mind changed, but….
this appears tyo be a crazy idea.

Another thing, as usual, every party totally ignores people who work for them selves….if it was possible for the Self Employed to do 5 days work, in 4 days, they would already be doing it!

Add in….
No Sick Pay
No Holiday Pay
No Minimum Wage
No Cover
No Employer Pension…

I could go on…..

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago

Of course the Tories would object to improved working conditions for working people. One only needs to read the history of working conditions in the UK to see that employers have always fought against imporvements and complained loudly about difficulties and loss of profits. In practice, of course, most of the complaints have turned out to be just noise and directors have continued to operate short working weeks and awarding huge bonuses for themselves.

1 month ago

Hypocrisy strikes again, while the Tory party cry foul of a 4 day week, insisting only some will benefit, they themselves take jobs outside being an MP where, for example, Alun Cairns earns £90,000 a year from 3 consultancies requiring 28 days work a year, is that fair? Belgium have passed a 4 day week law, Germany are going to trial the idea, while California are also looking into it. No rights for workers, by removing us from the ECHR is the only thing they think is ” fair” as it allows for more profit, greed, and getting those kids… Read more »

1 month ago

the working dropped from 46 hoir to 37 between the end ww2 and 1980. it then stopped dropping. why?

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
1 month ago

Why does anyone listen to what Tories they are in it for themselves and their rich chums and doners as much as i dislike Blair he brought in the minimum wage when some people where on 50p an hour and the tories ranted on about it was cause massive unemployment which it did not its the Tories who create mass unemployment

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
1 month ago

This is just party political mischief-making.

The Tories have never been really concerned with workers’ welfare.

If they were, they would not have raised the state pension age,

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