South Cambridgeshire District Council has extended its four-day week trial by 12 months.
The decision to maintain the working pattern for around 450 desk-based employees was made after an independent review revealed the success of a pilot programme which took place from January to March 2023.
According to the council, the shorter week aims to enable it “to continue to deliver excellent services to residents and businesses, whilst improving consistency and reducing cost” at a time when there is greater pressure on public sector spending.
The trial was introduced because of staff recruitment and retention problems at the council, with it spending around £2 million on agency workers. Since it began the council has already saved £300,000 in wages.
Dr Nina Jörden, research associate at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, University of Cambridge, commented: “We worked directly with the South Cambridgeshire District Council to guide and support this unique trial from a scientific perspective. Through rigorous analysis of Council data, we were able to demonstrate how the four-day week positively impacts individual wellbeing, increases workplace productivity, and maintains – in some services even improves – council performance.
“This collaboration is ground-breaking in that other public sector organisations will benefit from the insights gained to better address recruitment and retention challenges, improve the physical and mental health of their employees, and respond to a changing society – leading to better outcomes for citizens and the public at large for the long-term.”
Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cllr Bridget Smith, explained that data from the trial had been robustly analysed, showing that its services to residents and businesses have been maintained, and in some cases, improved. She also highlighted a positive impact on staff wellbeing.
Smith added: “We can therefore confidently say that this pioneering trial has been a success. It is now time to see whether a four-day week can have a positive impact on the critical recruitment and retention issues that we face over a longer term.
“The savings we make will help support the delivery of frontline services, especially for those impacted by the cost-of-living crisis. This is all in line with our aim to be a modern and caring Council. We should also remember that the five-day work week is around 100 years old. Across the country, we work some of the longest hours in Europe and yet somehow, have one of the least productive economies. This idea of a four-day week is absolutely not about working less. It is about working smarter and becoming more productive. That is exactly what we have done in the first part of this year.”
cabinet members have agreed that the trial will continue to the end of March 2024, with the council also exploring whether to extend it to bin crews.
Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, added: “We’re really pleased that after a successful trial, a year-long extension has been approved by councillors. This decision should give confidence to the many other councils across the UK who are considering launching their own four-day week trials. The evidence shows that a four-day week with no loss of pay improves productivity and is a win-win for both workers and employers.”