Following the lessons learnt from the recent lockdowns, flexibility at work has been put under the spotlight recently. For most companies this means a hybrid working policy allowing some home working and some office working. However, some companies are taking this further with Atom Bank reported to be the UK's largest four-day a week employer with all 430 of its staff working four days a week but for five days' pay.
This can also be seen in other jurisdictions, for example with the United Arab Emirates announcing that from 1 January 2022 all its federal employees will work a 4.5 day working week.
And now, 4 Day Week Global has launched the concept in the UK, where participating companies will trial a four day working week but with five days pay and an expectation of five days' productivity.
I find this a very interesting concept, especially as an employment lawyer who advises both employers and employees on formal flexible working requests. The concept of compressed hours (which is similar) has been one which strictly speaking can be requested through a flexible working request. And is one which ACAS supports in its commentary on flexible working using the following example:
“A small estate agency receives a request from Raj to work compressed hours. Working four longer days and freeing up Thursdays would allow him to undertake a course of part-time study. The employer is concerned that Raj will not be available to deal with pressing time-dependent issues from his customers concerning sales progress on a Thursday. It fears losing sales and attracting complaints because of Raj's absence and is inclined to refuse the request on the ground of adverse impact on customer demand. However, the employer values Raj and wants to retain him. Raj and the employer agree to extend the three-month period for considering a request under the "right to request" to trial the arrangement for ten weeks (the length of the first of three course modules). It transpires that, rather than complain, some customers report their satisfaction at being able to deal with Raj outside normal office hours on four days of the week. The office secretary has successfully handled routine matters in his absence and in practice Raj has been willing to be contacted by phone about the few urgent issues that arose. After the successful trial the employer agrees to Raj's request for compressed hours to cover the period of the remaining two study modules.”
The current reality
However, we generally see companies backing away from the concept and rejecting flexible working requests for compressed hours. I wonder if there is a genuinely good reason for this (productivity/people on the ground/burn out) or whether it is simply a perception of a reduction in commitment which would not in fact materialise. I also wonder if the pressure to work five days in four could be adversely detrimental to those with certain disabilities or childcare responsibilities. I would be interested to know how these type of issues will be countered by organisations such as Atom Bank.
I will follow the 4 Day Week Global pilot with interest.
If you would like advice on flexible working requests, please contact me.
In November, Atom Bank became the largest UK four-day week employer with all 430 staff moving to a four-day, 34 hour working week, with no reduction in pay.