Why B.C. needs to trial a four-day workweek

The BC Green Party is calling for a three-year pilot program exploring incentives for employers offering a four-day work week | Helen King / Royalty free / Getty Images

The nature of work has changed drastically in recent years. People are exhausted from trying to keep up with rising costs of living, housing unaffordability, working through a pandemic and technological changes. 

B.C. businesses are facing rising costs – inflation, paid sick days, the employer health tax, rising federal taxes – and many are struggling to hire and retain skilled workers. It’s clear the shifting trends aren’t serving many British Columbians. 

That’s why the BC Green caucus is calling for the B.C. government to pilot a three-year shortened work week incentivized by a one-time tax break for public and private businesses – similar to a proposed bill in Maryland. 

As part of the pilot, businesses would be required to report data to the province to better determine how to balance reduced work hours and maintain the same rate of pay with benchmarks like productivity, employee well-being and employer satisfaction.

The business-friendly approach allows flexibility for employers to figure out what works for their specific case, whether they’re shift workers, small businesses or working in an office. We want to show that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and allow businesses to adapt in ways that work for them. 

We should be rethinking what it means to work. A four-day workweek – without cuts to pay or working longer hours – is exactly the kind of innovative, people-first approach that can spark renewal in our workplaces. 

Results from pilots and trials in B.C., across Canada and around the world prove that a four-day week is good for businesses and good for people. Shorter workweeks reduce stress and illness, and maintain or even boost productivity. Workers report improved job satisfaction and employers are better able to attract, recruit and retain workers.

This isn’t about the future of work. Businesses around the world have already adopted the four-day work week. This shift is happening now. 

Governments in Maryland, Spain, Japan, Iceland, Scotland and rural Ontario have trialed or implemented a shortened workweek. Here at home, there are many organizations operating within a shortened week, like the City of Merritt, the David Suzuki Foundation and multiple small businesses. 

The tides are turning in the business community in Canada, with many businesses saying the four-day workweek is inevitable. 

According to a recent study, 91 percent of senior managers in Canada support some type of four-day workweek and 69 percent anticipate their company will implement it within the next five years. 

This government needs to modernize our economy by supporting a better work-life balance.

It’s time for this government to get on board and recognize that this is where the economy is going. With the right policies and incentives, government can encourage and incentivize this shift. 

When it comes to designing a new economy, we should be building a bright future, not looking into the past. Working more hours does not mean working better. 

This pilot would be the start of renewing our economy towards better work-life balance, well-being and a healthier life.

Sonia Furstenau is leader of the BC Green Party and MLA for Cowichan Valley