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What to Know: Two Bills Propose Shortening the Workweek to 4 Days

As people return to the office after two years of working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, several California state and federal lawmakers are pushing legislation to shorten the work week.

There are two bills, one California and one federal, that propose shortening the workweek by a day.

Last July, Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., introduced federal legislation to shorten the workweek.

In February of this year, two California lawmakers introduced Assembly Bill 2932. This bill would shorten the workweek from 40 to 32 hours for companies with more than 500 employees and it would make employers pay overtime to those who work more than four days a week.

Here is what to know about the shortened work week proposals.

Who’s trying the 32-hour work week?

Some 38 companies in the U.S. and Canada are taking part in it as part of a worldwide effort — 4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit group of business leaders, community strategists, designers, and advocates. Among them, are Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform.

Its CEO, Aziz Hasan, told CNBC it is a way for the company to become more powerful as a group.

“There are so many parts of the workweek that are just a waste of time,” said Banks Benitez, CEO of Denver-based Uncharted, which switched to a four-day workweek in 2020.

What are the pros?

One of the sponsors of the California bill, Democratic Assembly member Cristina Garcia told CNBC that a change in the work schedule hasn’t happened since the Industrial Revolution.

There has been no correlation between working more hours and better productivity,” Garcia said.

Takano said that a shorter workweek would benefit both employers and employees, citing pilot programs showing increased productivity and heightened morale.

“At a time when the nature of work is rapidly changing, it’s incumbent upon us to explore all possible means of ensuring our modern business model prioritizes productivity, fair pay, and an improved quality of life for workers,” Takano said in a news release announcing the federal bill.

Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, said the idea makes “all the sense in the world because it spreads work hours to more workers and minimizes unemployment.”

Juliet Schor, an economist and sociologist at Boston College, who is leading a six-month research project on shortened workweeks, said that for employees, there’s more free time and lower stress, a better work-life balance, better health and well-being and more time for family and community.

For companies, she said they see reduced resignations, sick leave and absenteeism, higher quality applicant pool, and lower healthcare costs.

“In most cases companies see no decline in productivity because work is reorganized and people are able to cut out unproductive/low productivity activities and maintain previous levels of productivity,” she said.

Reduced meeting time is common, she added.

She also cited less commuting time and lower carbon emissions.

What are the cons?

The California Chamber of Commerce says the increase in labor costs would discourage job growth, especially with so many employers still trying to recover from the pandemic and facing higher prices for supplies.

Schor said that for employees, the cons are an intensified pace of work during the four days. But people prefer this, she said, as the cost of getting a four day week.

She said, for companies, the cons are the need to manage work reorganization well.

It can be difficult for some people to squeeze all their work into four days, she said.

What’s the status of these bills?

California Assembly Bill 2932 is in the state’s Committee on Labor and Employment for review. Takano’s bill HR 4728, is under review by the House Committee on Education and Labor on July 27.


Source: NBC Los Angeles

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