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Business & Economy

Three-day weeks ‘would help COVID-19 rebound efforts’, says industry expert

The Government should introduce a three-day working week to help businesses begin rebuilding operations following the coronavirus lockdown, according to an industry expert.

Matthew Taylor says a shift to a six-day week – made up of two, three-day shifts – would help secure jobs, provide much-needed clarity and maintain safety by creating a window to carry out deep cleaning.

The chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) also advocates a 12-month transitional period, which he says would help businesses better plan and invest in new ways of working while easing pressure on the UK’s transport network.

Speaking during an online video podcast with Square One Law’s head of employment Jean-Pierre van Zyl, Matthew highlighted a new RSA report that calls for two three-day rolling shift patterns across a six-day working week to manage the impact of COVID-19.

“We have to think about transition,” said Matthew, who is also chair of the Review of Modern Employment.

“We know at the ground level and from economic theory that uncertainty inhibits innovation and creativity.

“We think the Government should say, unless the virus is actually eradicated on one hand, or the R number moves above one, on the other, this is how things are going to be for 12 months,” added Matthew, who produced ‘Good Work: the Taylor review of modern working practices’ for the Government in 2017.

“To maintain social distancing, it should put in place a set of measures and one of those would be the potential of moving to a six-day week, comprising of two, three-day shifts.

Matthew said the changes would give businesses a significant boost, revealing he has heard companies could lose as much as 20 per cent of their workforce in the coronavirus aftermath.

He added: “Saturday is a working day for many businesses and for schools and other businesses that wouldn’t normally open on a Saturday, people then work either Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

“That enables you to do a deep clean between shifts and it helps to track and trace illness.

“It will also help safeguard jobs because what I am hearing from business leaders is, on average, most businesses think they will lose about 20 per cent of their staff when things come back.

“But if you are employing people for three days rather than five days you’ll hold on to those people.

“It’s much better, in my view, that we accept a tightening of our belts, and the Government can support people who lose a bit of income as well.”

Jean-Pierre, of Newcastle and Stockton-based Square One Law, said the proposals would provide businesses with much-needed certainty and help inform their respective strategies to successfully emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown.

He added: “The RSA’s proposals offer an interesting solution, which will allow business leaders the opportunity to plan and manage their return to work for the coming months.

“We have embarked on this process already ourselves and are helping clients, essentially wargaming what the commercial landscape looks like as well as looking at various models for the next three, six and nine months to try to understand what needs to be put in place to help them.”