New Zealand firm trials shorter working week where employees get five days' pay for four days' work

Maya Oppenheim
Evidence has also shown that overwork leads to more time being taken off: Getty/iStock

A New Zealand company is set to test out a scheme where workers receive five days' pay for working a four-day week.

Perpetual Guardian, a company that deals with wills and trust funds, will start the trial for more than 200 employees in 16 offices across the country for a period of six weeks. If it is deemed a success it will be adopted full-time from July onwards.

Employees who take part will not be forced to work longer hours for the four work day week and will receive the same salary for working 32 hours a week instead of 40.

"We have seen cases where employees work longer hours for fewer days of the week or they earn 75 per cent of their full-time salary, but that is not what we are doing here," Perpetual Guardian founder, Andrew Barnes, told the New Zealand Herald.

Christine Brotherton, head of people and capability at the firm, said there was a growing demand for increased flexibility among workers and they were keen to respond to the needs of employees.

She drew attention to global research which shows a correlation between worker’s engagement and their productivity.

Ms Brotherton said: "If employees are engaged with their job and employer, they are more productive. This is why we are adopting this trial. We believe efficiency will come with more staff focus and motivation."

The pilot scheme could potentially have ramifications for the wider New Zealand workforce. While New Zealanders worked 1,752 hours over the course of 2016 – which makes them close to average when compared with their OECD peers – the amount kiwis work is significantly ahead of the 1,363 hours put in by the Germans.

It is worth noting research has shown working fewer hours can result in you being more productive. Although Germany has the shortest working hours among OECD member countries, it manages to achieve among the highest productivity levels.

Stats show a German worker to be 27 per cent more productive than their British counterpart who works 1,676 hours a year.

While Germans work the fewest number of hours per year, they are closely followed by Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. Mexicans, Koreans and Costa Ricans work the most.

Four-day work weeks have been tried out in companies such as Amazon, Google and Deloitte and in a number of countries such as Japan and the US.

In the UK the average full-time worker clocks up 37.5 hours a week. There is also the issue of unpaid overtime - according to the TUC workers put in 2.1bn unpaid hours in 2016 which amounts to a staggering £33.6bn of free labour.

Evidence has also shown that overwork leads to more time being taken off. In 2016, 12.5 million work days were lost due to work-related stress, anxiety or depression. In 44 per cent of cases the cause was workload.

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