• International Workplace
  • 3 October 2019

Labour commits to shorter working week

Outlining Labour’s commitment to “transforming lives, increasing fulfilment,” John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, last week committed Labour to reducing the average working week to 32 hours within a decade.

Drawing on a motion from the Communication Workers Union, which was passed by Labour Party Conference, McDonnell committed Labour to reducing the working week by setting up an independent Working Time Commission, based on the Low Pay Commission, to recommend increases in minimum holiday entitlements, and rolling out collective bargaining to enable trade unions and employers to negotiate how to meet the target in each sector. John McDonnell said:

“It’s not just about a fulfilling life at work; we should work to live, not live to work. As society got richer, we could spend fewer hours at work. But in recent decades progress has stalled and since the 1980s the link between increasing productivity and expanding free time has been broken. It’s time to put that right.

“So, I can tell you today that the next Labour government will reduce the average full-time working week to 32 hours within a decade. A shorter working week with no loss of pay. We’ll end the opt-out from the European Working Time Directive. As we roll out sectoral collective bargaining, we’ll include negotiations over working hours. We’ll require working hours to be included in the legally binding sectoral agreements between employers and trade unions. This will allow unions and employers to decide together how best to reduce hours for their sector. And we’ll set up a Working Time Commission with the power to recommend to government on increasing statutory leave entitlements as quickly as possible without increasing unemployment.”

Currently, the average UK full-time working week is 42.5 hours, against an EU average of 41.2 according to statistics body Eurostat.