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Four day working week backed by SNP members at party conference

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the SNP conference in 2019
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the SNP conference in 2019

SNP members have voted to take the first steps towards potentially introducing a four day working week in Scotland.

At the party’s annual conference, which is being held virtually from September 10 until 13, members voted in favour of the move by 509 to 16.

The SNP will now set up a £10 million fund to allow companies up and down the country to pilot and explore the benefits of a four day working week.

This is just one of the measures the SNP says it wants to introduce should Scotland become independence in a bid to create a “wellbeing economy” – other proposals discussed at the conference include a universal jobs guarantee, basic minimum income guarantee, and putting wellbeing and equality first in decision-making in a bid to eradicate poverty.

Health and environmental benefits

At the conference, party members referred to the “overwhelming success” of a four day working week trial in Iceland, which found productivity remained the same or improved despite cutting hours.

The trial included 2,500 workers and was run by Reykjavík City Council and the national government, with those who took part saying they were less stressed and their health and work-life balance improved, with the reduced hours meaning they had more time to spend with families, do their hobbies and complete household chores.

Alþingi Parliament House in Reykjavík, Iceland

Councillor Annette Christie spoke at the conference and said moving to a four day working week could also have environmental benefits as well as wellbeing benefits.

She said: “We have seen in Iceland rethinking the working week enhances workers’ wellbeing and increases productivity and standards in the workplace.

“There are environmental benefits of a shorter working week too with reduced greenhouse gas emissions and reducing our carbon footprint by 127 million tonnes by 2025.

“That is like taking 27 million cars off the road.

“The carbon saving opportunities with a four day working week is a welcome benefit in the race to net-zero, so it is a win-win.”

An economy which works for everyone

Emma Harper MSP brought the resolution forward for discussion at the conference after her own experience of doing a four day working week.

She said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on how many people work, and as we move into a period of recovery from the crisis it’s clear that we must do more to recognise that new reality, build a wellbeing economy, and help people achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Emma Harper MSP.

“Too many people have experienced the pressures, difficulties, and fears of unfair working practices.

“But, over the last 18 months in particular, we have also seen the possibilities and positives of adopting alternative working practices and getting a better balance between work and our personal lives.

“I have personal experience of the benefits of a four day working week during the time I worked in LA working in healthcare.

“The SNP manifesto has already set out steps to establish a £10 million fund to support companies to pilot and explore the benefits of a four day working week, and it’s important that we use the learning from this to consider a more general shift to alternative working practices.

“I am delighted that conference has passed this resolution to reaffirm Scotland’s fair work vision and build on our work to design an economy which supports secure sustainable, inclusive growth for everyone, in all parts of Scotland.”

Dundee business moves to a four day working week to boost employees’ wellbeing

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