Labour has rejected union demands to endorse a four-day work week as part of its election platform, maintaining that businesses should individually decide on working hours.

Despite mounting pressure, the party insists it will not revive the policy from Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership era.

A senior Labour adviser clarified, “There are no plans to implement a four-day week. It’s a decision for individual businesses. It’s not in any conversations I’ve had or in any manifesto-level discussions.”

During Corbyn’s leadership, reducing the work week to 32 hours within a decade was a key policy, with former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell promising in 2019 to cut working hours, citing the long hours worked by Britons compared to other Europeans.

Current Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has distanced the party from this policy, focusing instead on wealth creation. He emphasised his stance during the campaign, saying he would not be “deflected” from this goal.

Some unions are disappointed

Labour’s stance has disappointed some unions, notably Unison, which has heavily funded the party and recently called for the right to a four-day work week without pay cuts. Unison, with over 1.3 million members, represents numerous essential public service workers, including those in the NHS and local government.

Labour has, however, shown support for businesses that voluntarily adopt a shorter work week. Deputy leader Angela Rayner encouraged bosses to consider results from a 2022 pilot, where 61 businesses and over 3,000 employees trialed a four-day week, leading to a 65 percent percent reduction in sick days and increased revenue.

Despite support from some unions and business leaders, including those who penned a letter urging a shift to shorter hours, Labour’s largest backer, Unite, prioritises pay over a reduced work week. The ongoing debate reflects the broader tension between Labour’s traditional union supporters and its current economic strategy.

A spokesperson for the 4 Day Week Campaign argued that a four-day week would benefit many, especially disabled individuals and caregivers, and could improve NHS job recruitment and retention. However, Labour remains steadfast in its current approach, focusing on broader economic issues as the election approaches.

 

 

 

 

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Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.