Bosses in Northern Ireland 'spurn four-day working week'

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BOSSES in Northern Ireland are loathe to offer staff a four-day working week - even though it could backfire in making that company a less attractive place to work and create difficulties in recruiting new talent, a survey suggests.

And the latest quarterly insight from recruiting experts Hays, which gauged the opinions of 430 firms in the north, went as far as suggesting that more than half (53 per cent) of workers would be tempted to move to an organisation that offers a condensed four-day working week.

Of the 9,000 UK-wide respondents surveyed, those living in Northern Ireland (62 per cent) would be most tempted to switch employers for a four-day working week.

In June, 60 companies will take part in a pilot scheme in which, for six months, employees will work a four-day week, with no loss of pay. The study aims to test whether this can achieve higher productivity and improve wellbeing.

Of the employees surveyed in Northern Ireland, 30 per cent said they don’t believe a four-day week will ever become a reality, but 25 per cent said it might be introduced within five to 10 years, 29 per cent thought it could come in within two to five years and just 16 per cent expected a move within the next one or two years.

And among employer respondents in the north, 27 per cent felt a four-day week would never happen, though 14 per cent anticipated some sort of move towards it within the next two years.

When we asked what a four-day week would have the most beneficial impact on, employees in Northern Ireland overwhelmingly identified improved mental health and wellbeing (75 per cent), followed by organisational productivity (7 per cent), talent attraction (7 per cent) and talent retention (4 per cent).

Some 59 per cent of employers also pointed to the mental health benefits but 13 per cent hoped it would increase productivity, 12 per cent thought it would help them retain talent and 11 per cent believed it would attract talent.

But only three per cent of employers in Northern Ireland have so far introduced a four-day working week and two per cent are trialling it.

In the survey, 16 per cent of employers said they are considering implementing it but 53 per cent were clear they aren’t considering any such move.

John Moore, managing director of Hays in Northern Ireland said: “We’re certainly seeing companies getting more creative in what they can offer prospective staff when trying to recruit in a competitive market.

“But if employers don’t get the basics right such as offering competitive salaries along with flexible and hybrid working – the majority of professionals will look elsewhere to employers who have got the fundamentals right.

“From our experience, there’s still only a handful of companies offering a four-day week so, while it is an attractive offering, there are still lots of other ways for companies to stand out from the crowd with an offering that focuses on purpose and wellbeing.”