The Government is to seek proposals from the research community on the social, economic and environmental implications of reduced working time in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications will formally open the call on July 1 for submissions to give consideration as to how a four-day working week would operate.
The research will examine the impact reduced working hours would have on greenhouse gas emissions, environmental pollution, energy consumption along with economic impacts such as employment levels, competitiveness of businesses, staff productivity, gender inequality, staff well-being and job satisfaction.
Similar research on a four-day working week has been carried out in other countries and up to €150,000 will be made available to support this research in Ireland.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused us to rethink and re-evaluate how we work," Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said. "It’s been shown that huge numbers of people can be just as productive while working at home rather than having to come into the office every day and it has accelerated the shift towards more flexible and family-friendly working hours."
"It’s too early to say whether a four-day working week could work in Ireland. The idea is ambitious, to achieve the same outcomes and productivity, for the same pay with 20% fewer hours worked. I can see how that might work for some roles but it’s hard to see how it would work in others particularly in health, education and manufacturing for example."
"But we need to keep an open mind when it comes to innovations in the world of work. Ideas like annual leave, maternity and paternity leave and flexitime were once seen to be radical and are now the norm. This research being commissioned by the government will give us a much greater understanding of the potential of this idea and that’s why the department has agreed to co-sponsor it."
Minister for Environment Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan said a four day week could help us cut carbon emissions and air pollution, improve people’s work-life balance and support gender equality. "We need to look at the potential and assess the impacts of such a change, and this research will help us figure that out."