By Naseerah Nanabhai
In June this year, the United Kingdom launched a pilot four-day work week involving 3 300 workers in over 70 British companies. All eyes are on this pilot to see if similar models can be implemented in other countries. Many workers believe that the reduced weekly hours will result in improved structure at work and increased time for relaxation and personal duties.
COVID-19 sparked many changes in the world of work; with an increase in the number of employees working from home, the four-day work week has become a topic of interest. Most employees believe they can do their job to the fullest extent in 40 hours or less, and an extra day off would be a benefit they would enjoy.
In South Africa, public holidays often drive employers and employees to operate four-day work weeks. But whether it can work as a fully applied model in South Africa is debatable. For such a shift, the country’s labour laws will need amending. In addition, even if such legislation materializes, companies in specific sectors must re-evaluate how they operate. It will also depend on whether labour markets want it and, in general, seems to be a long way off.
Essentially, the jobs of highly skilled workers can easily be modified to fit into the four-day model. Thus, making the four-day work week more realistic in developed economies. South Africa has a majority of unskilled and semi-skilled personnel working in occupations that require time on task and cannot be optimized to fit into four days.
The model of the four-day work week is still in a trial stage, and there is insufficient evidence of its success even in developed countries. Making it safe to say it’s still a long way off for South Africa.