How would you like to go to work 32 hours a week? What would you prefer: work one day less or reduce one hour a day? The debate is open and, although the reduction of the working day seems easier to apply in some sectors than in others, the truth is that there are examples for all tastes where it has been carried out with good results.
The book Four Days. Working less to live in a better world (Sembra Llibres, 2022) by Joan Sanchis collects success stories in technology sectors, but also in the hospitality industry, which show that it is possible to reduce the working day while maintaining productivity. The gains are clear: reducing CO2 emissions from transport to work, improving mental health, reconciling…
Some companies have already done or are doing their experiments; others are considering it. To help them make the decision, the regional Employment Secretariat led by Enric Nomdedéu will launch a line of subsidies of up to 5,500 euros a year per worker for which companies reduce working hours to 32 hours a week. This is a pioneering initiative in Spain.
Companies based in the Valencian Community that apply a reduction in the working week to 32 hours may request it, regardless of whether they are concentrated in 4 days (8 hours per day) or in 5 days (7 hours per day). Likewise, they will have to present a social agreement between the company and the workers and a project to improve innovation.
The aid will have an amount of 5,492 euros the first year of application per worker; 2,746 euros the second year; and 1,373 euros the third year. As Nomdedéu explained at a press conference, “if the theory is true”, the reduction in aid “will be offset by improved productivity”.
Companies may request it voluntarily, but once they join the program, they will be obliged to maintain the 32-hour day for one year. The second and third year is optional.
Companies will not be obliged to apply it to the entire workforce, but will be able to decide which departments reduce the working day. Yes, a minimum of the total number of workers is established (all contract modalities are counted): in companies with less than 10 people, 30% of the workforce and a minimum of 2; in companies with 10 to 49 workers, 30% and a minimum of 3; in companies with 50 or more employees, 20%.
In addition, a number of men and women similar to that in the company (with a maximum gender deviation of 10%) must enjoy the bonus.
Self-employed people are excluded from aid for reducing the weekly workweek, for whom Nomdedéu has not closed the door to studying subsidies designed for these workers, although he has admitted that it is complicated.
A budget of 1.5 million euros will be earmarked to help companies reduce the working week to 32 hours, to which should be added the existing lines of subsidies for hiring and aid for training in new methodologies of worked.
The aid may be requested from its publication, which is expected for the end of May or June, with the intention that they begin to be applied by September 2022 or January 2023.
It will be controlled that cheating is not done through the Social Security contributions of subsidized workers and with inspection.
Nomdedéu has assured that "there are already companies that have been interested" in the program, among which there are from technology sectors, which "are the ones that have it easier" and also serve as "attraction of talent", but there is also a interested party who organizes concerts.
Enric Nomdedéu explained that the will of the Valencian administration is for companies to take advantage of the measure voluntarily and not be forced by law to reduce the working week to 32 hours.
Asked if it is the right time, he has been emphatic: "There is no more opportune time", although he has admitted that the reduction of hours "is not for everyone, for all companies or for all sectors".
In any case, he recalled that the Valencian Community exceeds the European average of hours worked per person (more than 100) and, on the other hand, is below in productivity. "This shows that working more does not make us more productive," she stressed.
On the other hand, he defended opening the debate on "what role should work play in our lives": "We need it to live, but surely we do more important things than work."
Parallel to these pioneering grants for companies, the city of Valencia will host the first International Summit of the Four-Day Week, which will take place on May 27 and 28 at the Petxina sports complex.
The event will address the advantages and disadvantages of this new organization of working hours with the opinion of experts, unions and political representatives. The Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz; the Valencian vice president, Mónica Oltra; the deputy in Congress for More Country, Íñigo Errejón; the general secretary of CCOO, Unai Sordo; the secretary general of the UGT, Pepe Álvarez; the economist and researcher Carmen Castro; and the researcher Adrià Todolí, among others. The complete program can be consulted on the web.