Is Canada equipped for a 30-hour work week?

A shorter work week for all could mean a lower unemployment rate, a study suggests

Is Canada equipped for a 30-hour work week?

Are Canadian employers ready to adopt the 30-hour work week as the new standard post COVID-19?

For the unemployed facing hard times because of the pandemic, the arrangement – also known as the four-day work week – offers them a chance to weather the economic crisis ahead.

A shorter work week for all could mean a lower unemployment rate since more people can share in the overall workload. By reallocating part of the work to some and easing the pressure on others, the setup distributes “the same amount of work among more employees,” research from the Angus Reid Institute suggests. 

Read more: Is HR ready for a four-day work week?

It’s a “good idea,” according to more than half of workers (53%) surveyed by the firm. In fact, the number of Canadians who are open to the setup has risen from 47% in 2018.

The proposal for a more compact work week is gaining traction particularly among those who sought government support during the crisis, such as the weekly $500 Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Three in five Canadians who applied for assistance (58%) support the call for a shorter work week.

“The increase in support is perhaps driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and difficulties it has presented for many out-of-work Canadians,” the institute said.

But even across income levels, Canadians are becoming more receptive to the idea: 64% of those who belong in the lowest household income levels agree with the change, while 47% of those earning a household income of more than $150,000 a year welcome the shift.

Overall, “Canadians are more supportive of the idea than less. Half (53%) say the concept has merit, well over double those who feel it is ill-conceived (22%),” the research firm said. However, one in four workers still aren’t quite certain how a shorter work week would impact them.

Read more: Leaders catching on to four-day work weeks

As with every proposal that shifts the status quo, the 30-hour work week has its critics.

“Many have concerns about ensuring sufficient income for employees operating outside of the traditional structure: part-time workers, minimum-wage earners, zero-contract workers, and professions that require frequent over-time hours such as teachers, medical staff and other essential services,” the institute said. 

But these issues can be addressed “by either increasing the minimum wage, not reducing salaries, or by introducing a universal basic income,” according to proponents cited by the firm.

“When you look at benefits or work arrangements, you can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach,” one HR executive, who implemented a flexible schedule for staff, told HRD.

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