Could America soon have a 4-day workweek? The latest on federal law in Congress
Another bill to federally reduce the 40-hour workweek was submitted to Congress by Democratic Rep. Mark Takano, who represents California’s 39th district, earlier this month. Will it stick this time?
Another bill to federally reduce the 40-hour workweek was submitted to Congress by Democratic Rep. Mark Takano, who represents California’s 39th district, earlier this month.
“Workers across the nation are collectively reimagining their relationship to labor — and our laws need to follow suit,” said Takano in a release. “We have before us the opportunity to make common sense changes to work standards passed down from a different era.”
The standard 40-hour workweek was first introduced in 1938 and known as the Fair Labor Standards Act. The new Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act, reintroduced by Takano, would not only reduce the standard work week for non-exempt employees but would demand overtime compensation of one-and-a-half the usual pay rate for each hour worked over 32 hours — something that The Society of Human Resource Management isn’t keen to see happen.
The bill was first co-sponsored by Democrat Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Jan Schakowsky to go into committee in 2022, but the bill received backlash from SHRM because of its one-size-fits-all approach that would reduce employees’ and employers’ flexibility.
“Fortunately, there are better ways to enhance employees’ work-life integration and attract and retain top talent,” said Emily M. Dickens, SHRM’s former CEO and head of government affairs, in a 2022 statement. “SHRM research shows 32 percent of organizations already offer a compressed workweek. Others have implemented flextime, shift work, part-time schedules and job sharing. Those flexibilities, which vary according to industry and organizational size, would be threatened.”
If implemented, Takano said that it would actually promote job competition and allow bargaining power for employees to get better benefits. It’s also expected to coincide with Americans’ refocus on family over work that has taken place in recent years, allowing people “to live, play, and enjoy life more fully outside of work,” he said.
The nonprofit 4 Day Week Global sponsors pilot programs like those in the U.K. and supports the bill submitted by Takano — along with several other organizations and individuals.
“This act reflects the growing movement towards reduced working hours. Emerging research is making the irrefutable case that a 4 day week results in positive benefits for organisations, people, and society,” said Dale Whelehan, the CEO of 4 Day Week Global, in a statement.
Heidi Shierholz, president of the Economic Policy Institute, agreed with the sentiment, adding in a statement, “This bill would help protect workers against the harmful effects of overwork by recognizing the need to redefine standards around the work week.”
“Reducing Americans’ standard work week is key to achieving a healthier and fairer society,” Shierholz finished.
Reducing the number of work hours has been quite the movement, as it has been tested in the United Kingdom with results of increased productivity, reduced turnover rates and greater job satisfaction.
The bill is currently in committee.