Government to research the potential and impacts of a four day working week

 

The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment intend to seek proposals from the research community on the social, economic and environmental implications of reduced working time.

Similar research has been carried out in other jurisdictions to give consideration as to how, for example, a move to a four-day week would impact on:

  • greenhouse gas emissions, environmental pollution and resource / energy consumption
  • macro-economic impacts, employment levels, competitiveness of businesses and staff productivity
  • gender inequality, staff well-being and job satisfaction

This new research call will provide an opportunity to address these impacts in the specific context of the Irish economy.

Tánaiste and Minister For Enterprise and Employment, Leo Varadkar said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to rethink and re-evaluate how we work. 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 TD said: “As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a chance to improve and reimagine our working lives in a way that benefits people and the environment. We’ve seen how adaptable and flexible people can be even in difficult circumstances, and we want to find out more about how we can keep some of the gains that have been made in terms of less commuting and more family time.

"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."

Up to €150,000 will be made available to support this research.

The two departments will formally open the call on 1 July 2021, at which time the full evaluation criteria, Terms and Conditions will be provided.

It is anticipated that the call will remain open to Proposals until 15 July 2021.