Employees at the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are leading a groundbreaking campaign. They aim to make Defra the first central UK government department to experiment with a four-day work week, maintaining the same salary level.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, representing these employees, is pushing for a pilot program involving 21,000 Defra staff. This initiative seeks to evaluate the impact on employees' wellbeing and efficiency. Advocating for a 20% reduction in work hours without a salary cut, the union highlights that this approach is quickly gaining popularity across private and public sectors.
Notably, the Environment Agency is excluded from this proposal. However, other entities like the Rural Payments Agency, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, and Natural England are participating in the campaign.
A PCS survey revealed that 40% of its members across UK government departments would consider resigning if mandated to return to office-based work full-time. PCS's General Secretary, Mark Serwotka, emphasised, "Evidence suggests a four-day week could enhance work-life balance and potentially boost productivity for the employer. Previous trials have shown reduced sick leave and increased staff retention and satisfaction. If Defra is committed to addressing employee burnout, stress, and overall wellbeing, our members' voices for this pilot should be heard."
Joe Ryle, the Director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, echoed these sentiments, stating that a four-day work week without pay reduction "boosts productivity and worker wellbeing." He added, "This model has repeatedly proven effective in the private sector. It's time to explore its potential benefits for public sector employees. We're overdue for a reduction in work hours and fully support PCS members in their pursuit."
Although a petition urging the department to consider this trial has been submitted to Defra, the response has been tentative. A Defra spokesperson remarked, "Currently, there are no plans to implement this, as ensuring taxpayer value for money remains a priority."
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