23 June 2023

Four-day working week for APS under discussion in latest round of negotiations

| Chris Johnson
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The Community and Public Sector Union is pushing for the flexibility to have the four-day week option form part of the next employment agreement for APS staff. Photo: File.

A four-day working week for public servants is being seriously discussed in the latest round of negotiations over wages and conditions for the Australian Public Service.

On the table is a proposal to provide APS employees with the option of working longer hours over four days of the week instead of the current 7.5 hours a day over five days.

They would have to total 37.5 hours a week but achieve that by working about 9.5 hours a day for four days between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm Monday to Friday.

The Community and Public Sector Union is pushing for the flexibility to have the four-day week option form part of the next employment agreement for APS staff.

In the current tight job market where the public service is struggling to compete with the private sector, a four-day week is seriously being considered as one way to attract and retain staff.

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But the government is being non-commital, with the Australian Public Service Commission saying only that it will further consider the proposal as bargaining continues.

A Senate report has called on the Federal Government to lead the way when it comes to a four-day working week, citing “substantive evidence” of it being both beneficial to employees and effective in terms of output.

While the Senate was considering widespread changes across most sectors, the government’s own workforce would be a test case.

The Select Committee on Work and Care, chaired by Greens Senator Barbara Pocock, released its report in March, with debate over working conditions featuring in the Senate this week.

A key recommendation from the committee’s report is for a trial of a four-day work week trial based on what is known as the 100:80:100 model.

The model has employees receiving 100 per cent of their pay while working 80 per cent of their normal hours but maintaining 100 per cent productivity.

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“While appreciating that a four-day working week and other reduced working week initiatives may not be suitable for all workplaces, there is a growing volume of evidence to demonstrate that it can work across most sectors and industries,” the report said.

“It is time for a review of standard hours, the frequency with which they are over-run without recompense, and for more widespread experimentation with shorter working weeks.”

“As a workplace with reduced hours has the potential to level the gender playing field, it raises not only the prospect of more women in managerial positions but also positively impacts unconscious bias in recruitment and training, as well as promotion across workplaces.”

The report suggested a four-day work week could help incorporate caring responsibilities into working life.

“The committee’s report gives the government the blueprint it needs to revolutionise our workplace laws so Australians, and particularly women, can find a balance between working and caring responsibilities,” Senator Pocock said in her report.

“Australia is an international outlier in terms of our support for workers with caring responsibilities. We have slipped too far behind. And we are paying a price in labour supply, stressed workers and gender inequality.

“It is time for a new social contract, fit for the 21st-century workplace, that does not put the burden on workers jugging care responsibilities around their jobs.”

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