4-Day Work Week For All Private Employees Allowed; But 12-Hour Shift Can Be Mandatory!
Indian government plans to consolidate 44 central labour laws under 4 codes on wages, industrial relations, social security and occupational safety health and working conditions.
Companies are offered flexible options of either a 4-day workweek of 12 hours per day, 5-day workweek of around 9.5 hrs per day or 6-day workweek of 8 hours a day.
The pandemic has pushed organisations to adapt to flexible work options such as remote work, work from home or fewer work days a week.
The new labor codes are expected to roll out from April 1 this year.
This development comes in the backdrop of increasing debate over productivity and its link to the number of working hours. It has been found in many places that workers need not be on the job for several hours in order to be productive. On the contrary, reduction in working hours could boost worker output and morale, also contributing to work life balance aims at the same time.
Precedents in Spain
Vice President Pablo Iglesias proposed a 4-day 8 hour-a day workweek last December. Companies are being encouraged to switch to this 32-hour work week model with financial incentives to the tune of EUR 50 million. Currently Spain has a cap of 40 hours a week and maximum 9 hours a day.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin put forward an even bolder proposition of a 6 hour-day 4-day workweek concept, placing importance on time spent with family, friends and pursuing personal interests and wider explorations of culture,etc.
Microsoft Japan conducted a trial of a 4-day workweek in August 2019 and was rewarded with a 40% spike in productivity. The experiment, aptly named Work-life Choice Challenge Summer 2019, had its 2,300 employees take Fridays off over and above weekends for 5 straight weeks with no salary cuts. They reported more energetic meetings and boosted worker morale and productivity.
Financially, the company benefited from reduced electricity use by 23% and 59% fewer printed pages.
New Zealand: Where The Idea Originated
TED Talks speaker and innovator Andrew Barnes is known for originally proposing the 4-day workweek model for his company in New Zealand, Perpetual Guardian, which is the country’s largest and oldest trust company.
He experimented with the idea for 2 months. It was a resounding success as 78% of the workforce said that home-work commitment burdens were easier to manage. Reduced stress levels were also reported with a 7% decrease.
In 2018 Barnes finally declared the beginning of a 4-day, 8-hours a day workweek with all employees getting paid for 5 days.
Also in New Zealand, Unilever announced last November their intentions to start the 4-day workweek model till December 2021 after which they will evaluate the results and take a call on its global implementation.
Is It Realistic?
International Labour Organisation (ILO) of which India is a founding member has set a cap of 48 hours work week but the reality is that Indian workers work a whole lot more than that. Current standard practices see Indian employees putting in 10 hour days.
If India were to implement the 4 day workweek, the 3 holidays a week would need to be compensated. This could have firms enforcing 12 hour workdays which will add to the already stressful norms.
Feasibility is also under the scanner with surveyed employees doubting that we would see a progressive 4-day workweek with manageable hours before the next 5 years.
IT sectors, banking and financial service firms and HR roles could adopt this practice faster, according to Kamal Karanth, co-founder of HR firm Xpheno.
Potentially lower office real estate costs is also a benefit.
But there are concerns that a single day could have the worker coming in for 2 different shifts to space out the 12 hour mandate which would be taxing on workers.