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Articles Local Government 7th Nov 2023

The 4 day week and DLUHC’s approach-STOP PRESS

A number of you might have been following the recent pilot scheme run by South Cambridgeshire District Council who have introduced, on a trial basis, a 4 day working week. We understand that staff performance requirements have been maintained and the Council is still open for public queries on Friday.

The Minister, Lee Rowley, has been quite outspoken, to some degree prompted by concerns expressed by local politicians and the local MP to the Council. We understand that the Council are “sticking to their guns” and as a result of this on 26 October 2023 the Government issued non-statutory guidance “4 day working week arrangements in local authorities”. The guidance states that “The Government does not support a 4 day working week in local authorities, as it does not believe that it delivers local taxpayers value for money”. Whilst our understanding is that the Minister wanted to impose an outright ban, the 4 day week (which has become increasingly popular in a number of employers and is a legal right in Belgium and Portugal), of course wiser counsel made it clear that he does not employ local authority employees and therefore advice is all that he can give. As non-statutory guidance councils have no obligation to comply.

There is a veiled threat within the guidance that if Councils disregard this advice, DLUHC or another government department “may raise concerns direct with the authority” and “consider options to correct decline in performance”. This might be difficult in the case of  SCDC as our understanding is that an academic report published into the implications of a 4 day week by a research body connected with the University of Cambridge indicate that, if anything, performance by most metrics has improved rather than declined–SCDC is saving a great deal of money on agency staff and finding it easier to appoint new personnel in “difficult” areas-interestingly, this repeats historical precedence, for example the Factory Act of 1833 which banned children under 9 from working in the textile industry and limited the working hours of under 13s to 48 hours a week but did not seem to affect productivity!

Watch this space.

If you would like to discuss anything covered in this article please contact Stephen Pearson.

Read the other topical articles from our Local Government Autumn update:

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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