Legal Update:

4 Day Work Week

The 4-day working week trial has been seen as a success by those taking part, with 56 out of 61 firms keen to maintain the new working pattern following the conclusion of the trial in December 2022. 18 firms have now made the change permanent.

The scheme took place between June and December 2022 and featured a variety of firms from sectors including software, manufacturing and recruitment. Those companies report the trial to have had extensive benefits on the well-being of employees, but it remains to be seen if this is the beginning of a paradigm shift in working attitudes. Some see a lot of risks with this working pattern and in that case, why did the trial go so well?

Some reasons provided include the removal of “timewasters” such as meetings which could be dealt with in other ways, and a reduction of calls between colleagues. Other factors included the ability for employees to work harder knowing that they will have a further day's rest in the middle of the week.

The 4 Day Week Campaign has said it aims to persuade hundreds more firms to adopt the 4-day work week trial with no loss of pay for workers. Productivity growth has been the key to an improvement in living standards over the past few decades. It is important to note that the government has not yet displayed any enthusiasm towards the idea. Other companies have condensed the 40 hours of a 5-day week into 4 days, rather than reduce working hours as the trial had done.

It remains to be seen whether the practice will catch on, but it is easy to understand why the move would be popular with employees and could be an enticing benefit to attract and retain talent.

Government Consultation on Rail Services

Last week the government launched a consultation on the implementation of minimum service levels for rail services during strike actions. This comes off the back of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which is working its way through Parliament. The Bill enables the Secretary of State to enact “minimum service regulations” which will apply during strikes affecting health, transport, fire, rescue, border control and education services resulting in minimum service levels which must be maintained during the strike.

The consultation focuses solely on rail services and will remain open until 15 May 2023. The consultation seeks opinions on the principles to be applied when determining the minimum service levels. The government has suggested that the criteria include the assurance of safe and reliable services which allow passengers to travel so they can access work and public services such as healthcare. The consultation also seeks views on which rail services should be specified as essential and which ones should be excluded. Suggestions include maintaining a specific percentage of full services compared to a normal day or identifying a set number of passengers that must be allowed to travel throughout the whole of the rail network.

It is interesting to see the government valuing input from all those effected by strikes and who would be affected, both positively and negatively, by the implementation of this Bill. Time will tell what the results of the consultation will be and how they are implemented, but it is likely that the Bill will pass through Parliament in due course.

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