Ellie Ames 21 February 2024

Future of four-day week in limbo

Future of four-day week in limbo image
Image: Sinseeho / Shutterstock.com

South Cambridgeshire councillors have been advised to continue the authority’s four-day week trial until the Government offers more detail on plans to ‘disincentivise’ the practice.

Ministers recently consulted on the use of ‘financial levers’ to discourage local authorities from operating a four-day working week for full pay.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s trial of the shortened working week had been due to end in March, with the authority set to consult on becoming a permanent four-day week employer soon after.

However, the council has said today that its consultation ‘cannot go ahead’ until it understands the implications of the Government’s proposed changes, and a new report to councillors recommends that the trial should continue until ministers provide further details.

The trial began for desk-based staff last January, and for waste operatives in September.

The new report sets out how the trial has seen £434,000 less spent on agency staff after the council recruited to 10 roles that it had previously struggled to fill. 

However, South Cambridgeshire’s Conservative group noted that the savings delivered through reduced use of agency staff are ‘miles off’ the previously projected £776,000.

The council report also shows that extra costs involved with moving to a four-day waste collection service bring the net saving down to £316,000.

The report recommends that weekly hours worked by desk-based staff are increased from 29.6 to 32, in line with the working pattern that has been drawn out for waste service operatives.

This means all staff will be working 86.5%, rather than 80%, of full-time hours.

A spokesperson from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: ‘We have been clear that the Government does not support any attempt from local authorities to implement part-time work for full-time pay, or the so-called “four-day working week”.

‘We are taking steps to ensure that South Cambridgeshire District Council is delivering value for money for its residents, and, if necessary, we will take further action to put an end to this experiment.’

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