SNP conference: Members back plans for a Scottish four-day working week

A four-day working week could become a main plank of any new pro-independence referendum campaign after the idea was backed at SNP conference, with members declaring it would be made permanent in an independent Scotland.

Pilots of a shortened working week for office-based staff, which would not see a cut to people’s incomes, are to be staged by the Scottish Government in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

SNP members have now backed a motion that will make a major shift in working practices official party policy.

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Recent research by IPPR Scotland found 80 per cent of people believed that cutting their number of days at work with no loss of pay, would have a "positive effect on their wellbeing”.

A four day working week for office staff is to be trialled.

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However, the think-tank said the Scottish Government should expand such schemes to include more non-office-based jobs, including those who do shift work and part-time employees, or the trial may not properly test the impact of such a fundamental change.

The resolution passed at the SNP conference on Friday backed the party’s Social Justice and Fairness Commission’s finding that “with a fair work agenda, and the increased productivity it creates, there is a strong argument for introducing greater provision for a four-day week”.

Employment legislation is, however, reserved to Westminster.

As a result, SNP members said the trials of the scheme would be used to “consider a more general shift to a shorter working week as and when Scotland gains full control of employment rights” following the party’s commitment to securing a second independence referendum.

The Scottish Greens have also previously backed such a change to people’s working lives and earlier this year joined trade unions in writing to Nicola Sturgeon calling for Scotland to follow Spain and embrace shorter working hours with no loss of pay. The policy was also in the party’s manifesto.

SNP MSP Emma Harper said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on how many people work, and as we move into a period of recovery from the crisis it's clear that we must do more to recognise that new reality, build a wellbeing economy, and help people achieve a healthy work-life balance.

“Too many people have experienced the pressures, difficulties and fears of unfair working practices.

"But over the last 18 months in particular, we have also seen the possibilities and positives of adopting alternative working practices and getting a better balance between work and our personal lives. I have personal experience of the benefits of a four-day working week during the time I worked in LA working in healthcare.

"The SNP manifesto has already set out steps to establish a £10 million fund to support companies to pilot and explore the benefits of a four-day working week, and it’s important that we use the learning from this to consider a more general shift to alternative working practices."

Advice Direct Scotland, which runs Scotland’s national advice service, introduced a four-day week for its own staff in 2018, meaning employees receive the same pay, but work for a day less each week.

The organisation said it had improved productivity and morale, with absenteeism down by around 75 per cent. The model does not mean giving everyone the same day off, ensuring a five-day service is still delivered.

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