Centre may allow 4-day work week

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    The Union government will soon offer companies the flexibility to choose a shorter four-day work week, albeit with longer shifts. The weekly 48-hour work limit will stay but employers will be able to deploy people on four, 12-hour workdays per week; or five, around 10-hour days; or six, eight-hour days, labour secretary Apurva Chandra told reporters on Monday.

    “We are not forcing employees or employers. It gives flexibility. It’s an enabling provision in sync with the changing work culture,” Chandra said. The provision will be part of the labour code, and once the new rules are implemented, employers will no longer be required to seek government permission to shift to a four- or a five-day working week if their employees approve the arrangement.

    Chandra said employers will have to ensure that if they choose a four-day workweek, there has to be a three-day break, and if it is a five-day week, two days of break before starting a new work week has to be implemented. Once the new labour code is in place, experts said employers will have the freedom to choose to have 8 to 12 hours workdays, based on demand, industry and location.

    Many employees are likely to be thrilled with the possibility of spending extra time on leisure activities and recover effectively from their weekly pressures. Companies can also benefit from lower office rental costs and more energized and productive staff.

    “It shall also benefit a new generation of workers who value ‘me time’ and would prefer working long hours for fewer days to get an extra off. Besides, foreign firms will be the first to adopt it as this will reduce their real estate expenditure at one end and improve productivity of workers on the other. The covid-19 work culture has given companies a proof of concept and its adoption won’t be tough,” said Karanth, a former managing director (India) of global staffing firm Kelly Services.

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    Rituparna Chakraborty, executive vice-president and co-founder of staffing company TeamLease Services, said the move will benefit both employees and employers. “It’s not enforcement but an option. I believe labour-intensive sectors such as manufacturing will adopt them. Imagine a company doing the same work in four days instead of five and the benefit of saving one day of operational cost—that’s a big positive,” said Chakraborty.

    “It will benefit sectors such as information technology and shared services. In the banking and financial services industry, 20-30% of people can use the long working hours template for four or five days and enjoy a longer break. Profiles like human resources and finance verticals can easily adopt such a practice faster,” said Kamal Karanth, co-founder of human resource firm Xpheno.

    However, some experts say that this may lead to a day’s work converting into two shifts instead of three and reduce employment opportunities. “Up to 12 hours of work plus commute time for four and five days, will be taxing on workers, especially in factory settings. The work-life balance may get impacted, “said K.R. Shyam Sundar, a labour economist.