A new report has suggested that half a million new jobs could be created in Britain by switching to a four-day week in the public sector.
The Autonomy think tank found that a compulsory four-day working week would help ease the expected unemployment surge in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Mirror reports that workers would remain on full pay, even though they are working less.
The study said that the total cost of the initiative would be £9billion a year but would save the Government money in the long run.
Autonomy said this represented 6% of the public sector salary bill and was the same amount as the furlough employment scheme brought in after the Covid-19 outbreak.
The report said it would be possible for workers in the public sector to switch to a 32-hour week with no loss in wages.
It said a reduced week would open up new opportunities for those who have been locked out of employment since March, while also keeping workers employed after the furlough scheme closes in October.
Such a move would have the biggest impact in so-called “Red Wall” seats in the North of England and the Midlands which were taken from Labour by the Conservatives in the December general election according to the study.
More than million people work in the public sector – about one in six of those in employment – but the report noted that in places such as Doncaster, Bradford and Barnsley the proportion rose to about one in five.
London, which has a higher percentage of private sector employment would benefit less, the think tank said.
Will Stronge, of Autonomy, said: “The time has come for a four-day working week and the public sector should act as the pioneer for it, both as employer and as procurer of services.
“To help tackle the unemployment crisis we are facing this winter, a four-day week is the best option for sharing work more equally across the economy and creating much needed new jobs.
The four-day week makes so much sense as it would boost productivity, create new jobs and make us all much happier and healthier.”
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The report stated: “‘Red Wall’ areas including Barnsley, Bradford and Doncaster, where around 20% of overall employment exists in the public sector, would stand to benefit much more than the South East where public sector employment takes up a relatively lower proportion of employment.”
The think tank said such a move could have a beneficial health impact.
The study said: “More than two-thirds of UK workers are stressed or overworked in their jobs and according to the Health and Safety Executive, one in four of all sick days lost are the direct result of overwork.”
However, with the government’s budget deficit on course to be more than £300billion, the plan is unlikely to find favour with the Treasury.
The Bank of England is forecasting that the jobless rate using the internationally agreed measure will rise from just under 4% to 7.5% by the end of the year.
A government spokesperson said: “It is not for the government to mandate working patterns for businesses or their employees. The important thing is that they have the flexibility to agree a working pattern that suits them.
-- to www.chroniclelive.co.uk