Three people stand beside a red sculpture in Dublin's Grand Canal Dock. One of the men is holding a sign that says 'Four Day Week'.
Kevin Callinan of Fórsa; Orla Kelly of University College Dublin; and Joe O'Connor of Four Day Week Ireland. Image: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

Four-day week pilot could change the way Ireland works

22 Jun 2021

Four Day Week Ireland has launched a pilot programme, while the Government will fund a research partnership to assess the economic, social and environmental impacts.

A new pilot scheme from Four Day Week Ireland aims to overhaul Ireland’s attitude to work-life balance post-pandemic.

The pilot, which launched today (22 June), will offer businesses supports and advice that will help them implement flexible working practices for their employees.

Under the trial programme, employers will introduce a four-day week for staff over a six-month period starting in January 2022.

The Four Day Week Ireland campaign is backed by the Fórsa trade union, the National Women’s Council, Friends of the Earth Ireland, and several Irish businesses including ICE Group and 3D Issue.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications will also fund a research partnership to assess the economic, social and environmental impacts of a four-day working week in an Irish context.

Up to €150,000 will be made available to support research focusing on areas such as energy consumption, employment levels, staff productivity, gender equality and job satisfaction.

‘We need to keep an open mind when it comes to innovations in the world of work’

Speaking about today’s announcement, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD, said the pandemic has caused us to rethink and re-evaluate how we work.

“It’s too early to say whether a four-day working week could work in Ireland,” he said. “The idea is ambitious, to achieve the same outcomes and productivity, for the same pay with 20pc fewer hours worked.

“I can see how that might work for some roles but it’s hard to see how it would work in others particularly in health, education and manufacturing, for example. But we need to keep an open mind when it comes to innovations in the world of work.”

Joe O’Connor, chair of Four Day Week Ireland, said the campaign welcomes the support of the Government.

“With the huge changes taking place in the post-Covid environment, now is the right time for the Government to be imaginative and innovative in reassessing how we live and work,” he added.

“Employers who have already introduced a four-day week have found that a shorter working week can benefit their employees’ physical and mental health, as well as bringing broader benefits to society.”

Over the upheaval of the past year, there have been many discussions about the possibility of a four-day work week and how companies could implement it.

Proponents say it could benefit worker wellbeing and work-life balance, and also give companies a competitive edge when trying to attract talent.

Donegal-based digital publishing company 3D Issue introduced a four-day week last year. Paul McNulty, CEO of the business, said the move has benefited staff and sales have increased.

“Our staff are happier, more refreshed and more engaged in their work,” McNulty added. “Covid-19 has changed people’s perspective of the optimal working environment and of work-life balance. We are delighted to support Four Day Week Ireland in its campaign to study and educate the wider business community.”

As part of the campaign, Four Day Week Ireland is also joining a multinational coalition of businesspeople, academics and researchers in calling for signatures on a petition to make the four-day week a reality for businesses and workers around the world.

Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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