Four-day Working Week

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20th April 2022.

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Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government whether it has had any feedback from businesses that are making use of financial support to trial a four-day working week. (S6O-00966)

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The pandemic has intensified interest in flexible working practices. We have seen the positives of adopting alternative working practices for a better work-life balance, and we recognise that the four-day week has many other benefits. Therefore, the Government has committed to the establishment of a £10 million fund to allow companies to pilot and explore the costs and benefits of moving to a shorter, four-day working week. We are committed to developing a comprehensive design for the pilot over the next year, supported by initial funding of £500,000.

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

Does the minister agree that United Kingdom employment policy is not fair for workers and that, rather than our relying on a callous Tory Government that cares little for those who bear the brunt of its outdated, race-to-the-bottom policies, which harm workers and deregulate an already skewed market, the pilot, which puts welfare and the mental health impact of a good work-life balance at its heart, demonstrates that Scotland could do better if we had powers over employment law?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

Yes, I agree with everything that Emma Roddick said. The recent P&O scandal highlighted the fact that UK employment policy should be dramatically improved.

Having employment law powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament would allow us to protect and enhance workers’ rights by, for example, making the minimum wage a real living wage and tackling the inappropriate use of zero-hours contracts. We are doing what we can within our limited devolved powers, such as piloting a four-day working week, to bring the benefits that Emma Roddick has talked about.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

It is clear from the trials that a four-day working week benefits workers and businesses, with a better work-life balance and greater productivity. The Scottish Government has the power to introduce a four-day week in the public sector, so can the minister confirm when the Government will expand four-day working week trials in the public sector and whether workers in non-unionised workplaces, such as many of those in the hospitality sector, will be covered by future trials?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

As I said in my response to Emma Roddick, we agree that there could be many benefits from introducing a four-day working week, and that is why we are taking the ambitious and radical step of conducting, at a cost of £10 million, a pilot to look at the costs and benefits of a four-day working week in Scotland.

Indeed, several Scottish businesses have already chosen to switch to a four-day working week with no cut in pay, and officials from the Government have been meeting with and gathering information from those companies. Pilots are also under way elsewhere in the UK and in other European countries. We will get evidence from those pilots and take into account the points that the member has raised as we take forward the arrangements for the pilot.