Trial the 4-day work week

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2023 National Higher Education Conference
13 October 2022
Carried as Amended

Conference believes it is time that Universities actively participated in 4-day work week trials. Universities are centres of research and innovation and many want to be ‘employers of choice’ (employers that people actively want to work for). They are the perfect institutions to try new approaches to work. Findings suggest that a 4-day week enhances employee wellbeing whilst also improving productivity: a win for employees, and a win for employers. The 4-day week is a reduction in the standard working week for the same pay and benefits. It does not mean working the same hours over fewer days.

Conference notes that a recent UK trial led to 86% of companies that took part maintaining the four-day week policy after the trial ended. When done correctly, this approach to work is practical and effective.

It also has a significant, positive environmental impact. Someone who usually works 5 days a week reduces their weekly commute by 20% – this is a big reduction in the carbon footprint of someone who drives or takes public transport to work. Sustainability is high on the agenda for Universities and UNISON, and this policy supports the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Additionally, there are obvious big cost savings for the Universities in terms of utilities and their estate, and for employees too. 4 Day Week, a group campaigning for a shorter working week, have found that a parent with two children working a 4-day work would save £3,232.40 on average per year.

Conference calls on the Higher Education Service Group Executive to:

1)Develop a campaign to encourage Universities to engage with existing 4-day work week trials

2)Encourage Universities to utilise their own academic experts and HR resources to launch their own 4-day work week trials

3)Work with other campus unions to ensure trials are launched and involve a diverse range of employees from all staff groups

4)Share the evidence from previous and current 4-day week trials as part of the annual national pay bargaining round.