A California congressman has put resubmitted a bill to make a four-day work week a federal mandate, in order to re-balance how workers’ happiness and health are prioritized alongside company profits. Rep. Mark Takano told CNBC that he believes this move will “increase the happiness of humankind” by reducing the number of worked hours per week, while making it easier to access overtime pay and ensuring wages stay the same.
“Workers across the nation are collectively reimagining their relationship to labor – and our laws need to follow suit,” said Rep. Takano in a statement from Takano’s press office.
“We have before us the opportunity to make common sense changes to work standards passed down from a different era. The Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act would improve the quality of life of workers, meeting the demand for a more truncated workweek that allows room to live, play, and enjoy life more fully outside of work.”
The bill would officially reduce the standard work week from 40 hours to 32 hours (hence the name), with any more hours worked receiving overtime compensation of at least one and a half times the hourly rate. It is comprehensive in ensuring that companies do not take the reduced work week but attempt to compensate it in other areas, such as reducing pay or increasing hours worked during the other four days, but still leaves some questions about how hourly rate laborers could be protected.
The move follows consistent new research that demonstrates four-day working weeks are typically preferred by both employees and employers. A recent large trial in the UK involving 61 companies for six months resulted in 56 extending the trial after positive results and 18 making it permanent. This is further backed up by another trial in Iceland that had similar success.
Despite the findings, there have yet to be any significant policy changes. Most companies exposed to it report positive experiences, but getting many to try the idea in the first place is the challenge currently faced by think tanks and four-day-week advocates. This bill could be the first step in changing that.
“Many workers are struggling to balance working more hours to earn more income against having more time to focus on themselves, their families, and other pursuits. However, while studies have shown that long working hours hurt health and productivity, taking control of work-life balance is often a privilege only afforded to higher-earning workers,” said Heidi Shierholz, President of the Economic Policy Institute, in a statement.
“This bill would help protect workers against the harmful effects of overwork by recognizing the need to redefine standards around the work week. Reducing Americans’ standard work week is key to achieving a healthier and fairer society.”