Belgium could be getting a four-day week
Belgium could be moving toward a four-day working week
The Belgium government has agreed to a vote on proposals to introduce a countrywide four-day working week.
All parties have agreed "in principle" that employees should be entitled to more flexible working but the plans don't include a reduction of hours.
Employees will be expected to work their contracted hours over four days, meaning to qualify for an extra day off, an average workday will be extended to nine and a half hours.
The proposals will go to a vote next week.
In March, the Spanish government agreed to trial a four-day week with selected businesses. The proposals were brought forward by the small left-wing Spanish party Más País.
Proposals are also being considered by the Irish and Scottish governments.
When Jeremy Corbyn proposed a four-day-working-week in 2019, the Tories said his plans "would cripple the NHS".
At the time, the Conservatives claimed that the introduction of the four-day week would increase staff costs at the NHS by £6.1 billion a year.
A huge figure, not recognised when a trial took place in Iceland.
Iceland successfully piloted a flexible working programme from 2015-2019.
The two large-scale trials reduced the working week of 35-36 hours with no reduction in pay.
UK-based thinktank Autonomy said that broadly speaking, the Icelandic trials had an inconsequential financial impact, due to productivity gains.
In some industries where the government was forced to hire workers to cover shortfall - like healthcare - increased costs were estimated at around £24.2 million.
To put this in perspective: the budget of the Icelandic government in 2019 was £5.1 million. The extra cost was therefore, marginal.
Icelandic research organisation the Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda) reported a dramatic increase in worker well-being across a range of indicators: from perceived stress and burnout to health and work-life balance.
As a result, 86 per cent of Iceland’s population are now entitled to permanently shortened hours.
Belgium's flexible working proposal goes to vote next week.
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