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August 18, 2023

Pa. lawmakers push for statewide 4-day workweek

Rep. G. Roni Green announced a new bill that would mandate 32-hour weeks for large companies. It will be the state's third piece of legislation this year that promotes a shorter work schedule

State Rep. G. Roni Green announced plans to introduce a bill that would standardize four-day workweeks for large companies, signaling a growing movement for shorter working hours.

The legislation would require companies with more than 500 employees to reduce weekly hours from 40 to 32 without a reduction in pay. Local and mid-size companies would be exempt from the law.

"Workers deserve to have a weekly schedule that respects a balance of work and personal responsibilities," Green, a Democrat from Philadelphia, wrote in a memorandum. "A four-day workweek would provide hardworking individuals with more time for rest, family obligations, and focus on both physical and mental health. Rested, happy and healthy workers in turn can better focus on work and accomplish more in a workday."

Green's bill would be the third piece of legislation related to four-day workweeks introduced at the General Assembly this year. The Labor & Industry committee is also reviewing a resolution to conduct a cost-benefit analysis on a shorter workweek and a bill to create a four-day workweek pilot program that would provide tax credits to employers who participate. Reps. Christopher Raab and Dave Madsen, both Democrats, are the respective prime sponsors.

With the wave of recent legislation, momentum for a shorter workweek is growing — and not just in Pennsylvania. Massachusetts lawmakers introduced a bill for a four-day workweek pilot program this spring, while Maryland reps introduced, then rescinded, a similar bill in January, and there is an aim to reintroduce it next year. U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat from California, introduced his bill to standardize a 32-hour workweek for the second time in March.

The idea is enormously popular with employees. A recent Glassdoor poll found that 81% of workers believe they would be more productive under a four-day workweek. The world's largest trial of a 32-hour workweek, conducted in the U.K., found that worker stress levels, mental health and sleep improved. Participating companies reported a 35% increase in revenue compared to the same period from previous years. At the end of the experiment, 15% of employees said "no amount of money" would convince them to return to 40 hours a week.

Federal and Pennsylvania legislation have thus far never gotten off the ground. Bills have failed to garner significant support among Republicans, and critics worry how the change would impact industries like farming or health care, Stateline reports.

More progress has been made internationally. Earlier this year, Spain opened applications for a four-day workweek pilot program to small business owners, who will receive funding from the government for participating. Iceland conducted a four-year experiment between 2015 and 2019 and found similar or better levels of productivity and enthusiastic worker response. According to Quartz, 86% of the country's population had already shifted to a shorter workweek, or gained the option to do so, by the time the report was published.

Scotland and Portugal have also announced pilot programs, while Belgium has granted all workers the option to move to a four-day workweek — albeit with no reduction in hours.

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