There's a Shorter Workweek on the Horizon

A bill proposed by Democrat lawmakers is backed by research and prompted by effects of the pandemic
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2022 3:14 PM CDT
California Lawmakers Propose Major Workweek Changes
   (Getty - BackyardProduction)

Two California lawmakers might put their state on the leading edge of a major shift toward a better work-life balance for all. "We’ve had a five-day workweek since the Industrial Revolution," state assemblywoman Cristina Garcia tells the Los Angeles Times, "But we’ve had a lot of progress in society ... I think the pandemic right now allows us the opportunity to rethink things, to reimagine things." Garcia says the push for a four-day workweek reflects a broad shift toward remote work and—even more importantly—the mass flight of some 47 million workers who up and quit their jobs in search of something better.

Garcia and coauthor Evan Low, both Democrats, introduced AB2932 earlier this month. The bill would change the official workweek from 40 to 32 hours for companies with at least 500 employees. Per The Times, the workday will still be 8 hours, but the bill includes thresholds for overtime pay over 32 and 40 hours. It also prevents employers from cutting pay rates to make up for gaps. The bill does not apply to collective bargaining agreements (most of which already have better benefits), and Garcia adds that "conversations are ongoing" about how to handle salaried workers. In DC., Democratic Rep. Mark Takano has proposed similar changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act.

California’s Chamber of Commerce put the bill on its job killer list, saying it will "significantly increases labor costs by imposing an overtime pay requirement after 32 hours and other requirements that are impossible to comply with." However, as USA Today reports, the idea is backed by a pile of emerging research. After years of nationwide trials, 86% of Icelanders now have a right to a shorter workweek. The Japanese government recommends the policy but has not taken steps to codify it. Per Investopedia, large companies around the globe have experimented and found that an emphasis on results rather than hours improves morale, decreases burnout and turnover, and increases sales and productivity. (Read more Four-hour workweek stories.)

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