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Human Resources

Is Australia ready for a radical shift in work culture?

Health Industry Hub | June 23, 2023 |

Human Resources: In a move that could revolutionise the Australian workweek, a landmark inquiry has recommended a nationwide trial for a four-day work week with full-time wages, adding to recent research demonstrating the dramatic impact of this significant shift in work culture.

Spearheading the initiative is Greens Senator Barbara Pocock, who chaired the inquiry and is calling on the government to seriously consider the ambitious reforms aimed at improving the quality of life for Australians.

The Senate Select Committee on Work and Care, in its comprehensive report, endorsed a range of transformative changes, including a year of paid parental leave and the right for employees to disconnect from work outside of regular hours. However, the highlight of the recommendations is the proposed trial of the 100:80:100 model, which would allow workers to retain their full-time wages while working only 80% of the traditional five-day work week. It included the consideration of stronger penalties for employers who require excessive working hours from their staff.

As Senator Pocock aptly stated, “We need to think more seriously about how we deal with a changed workforce. The time has come for policymakers, businesses, and society as a whole to explore innovative approaches that prioritise the wellbeing and productivity of individuals.”

While the report received broad support from both Labor and Coalition senators, government members raised concerns about the feasibility of implementing the reforms in the current economic climate. Labor Senators Deborah O’Neill, Jana Stewart, and Linda White stressed the importance of considering the report’s recommendations within the context of budgetary and legislative constraints.

Adding weight to the inquiry’s recommendations, recent research has demonstrated the dramatic impact of a four-day work week. A large-scale study conducted across multiple countries, including Australia, found that companies participating in the experiment witnessed a significant increase in revenue. Over a 10-month trial period, employees worked an average of six hours less per week while maintaining their regular salaries. The study reported an 8% rise in revenue during the trial period, which skyrocketed to an astonishing 38% increase in revenue compared to the same period the previous year.

Moreover, the trial resulted in reduced employee absenteeism and lower levels of burnout, fatigue, and sleep problems. Two-thirds of the companies involved, including the Australian offices of Unilever, decided to adopt the four-day work week permanently after experiencing overwhelming success. The study, coordinated by 4 Day Week Global in collaboration with prestigious institutions such as Cambridge University, Boston College, and Oxford University, has added weight to the growing chorus advocating for a re-evaluation of the traditional workweek structure.

The proposed trial by the Senate Select Committee on Work and Care will be conducted in partnership with an Australian university and involve a diverse spectrum of workers. If successful, it could pave the way for widespread adoption of the four-day work week across various industries.

As the conversation surrounding the four-day work week gains momentum, it has the potential to reshape the future of work in Australia. The call for change has been sounded, and it remains to be seen how policymakers will respond to the opportunity for progress and meaningful reform in the realm of work.

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