January 28, 2021

The Four-Day Working Week: a Resolution to the Gender Pay Gap?

The four-day working week was hot on the agenda back in 2019, but it’s taken a backseat in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the rise of homeworking and the increasing desire for flexibility, is it time to dust off the idea?

The four-day working week comes with plenty of benefits for employees as well as businesses. Let’s remind ourselves of these and also ask the question: can the four-day working week help resolve gender pay issues?

Reducing the Gender Pay Gap

There are many benefits of a four-day working week. In particular, increasing productivity, reducing business costs, reducing health issues amongst employees and – perhaps most importantly of all – increasing the overall happiness of the workforce. But could it also reduce the gender pay gap?

A study completed a few years ago by the Institute of Fiscal Studies UK examined the gender pay gap in motherhood compared to their equal counterparts at work. They found that those who hadn’t taken time off work or reduced their hours to raise a family were paid – on average – 10% less than their male colleagues in the same or comparable roles. By the time motherhood reaches its 12th year, the pay gap increases to 33%.

Can offering a shorter, four-day working week with consolidated hours to employees reduce this pay gap divide? We think so, yes.

And that’s the discussion taking place around the table for many HR professionals. Businesses must take this consideration seriously, as well as reviewing the wider beneficial impacts of the four-day working week.

Productivity

The evolution of technology has enabled the UK workforce to change and amend their hours of work to suit their current lives. Discontent employees have a tendency to disrupt other employees, so the general theory around a shorter week results in happier employees. The result? An increase in productivity.

Mental Health

According to the mental health charity, Mind, one in six of us will suffer some type of mental illness in our lives. However, having a longer weekend allows people to spend more time with family and friends which can increase their mental wellbeing.

Reduced Costs

A shorter week can cut costs for everyone. Offices closing for an extra day automatically reduces costs. Employees not having to travel to work reduces travel costs; and not only financially but environmentally, with a resulting reduction in traffic and pollution.

COVID-19

The global pandemic has changed the world of work since it’s start. Anyone who is normally office-based is now instructed to work from home, which has created a “new working day”. Hours of work are now – where possible – more flexible, and work-life balance has generally changed for the better.

To Sum Up…

Should the typical ‘9 to 5’ and a five-day working week be a thing of the past? Perhaps, especially with the benefits listed above. But if you need to make the case for change, offering the four-day working week as a practical solution to the gender pay gap, is a great place to start.

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About the author

Stephen Johnson

About the author

Stephen Johnson

Stephen has over 25 years experience in private sector HR and management roles, working as a Manager for over 10 years and eventually moving into the financial services industry. In his current role as an HR Policy Review Consultant he develops, reviews and maintains our clients’ employment documentation. With extensive knowledge of management initiatives and HR disciplines Stephen is commercially focused and supports clients in delivering their business objectives whilst minimising the risk of litigation.

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