Alison Jones, The Canadian Press
TORONTO – The National Democratic Party and Ontario Liberals are promising to explore the idea of a four-day work week if they form government. The idea appears to be working well in a city in the southwest of the province, but the business community is divided.
The Liberals said they would launch a “demonstration” of the four-day workweek, working with business and worker groups, to design and test the model.
Liberal leader Stephen Del Duca has claimed that the pandemic has stimulated the need to revise the work-life balance.
“The reality for many workers and their families is that even though they show up for work every day and work hard, they are getting worse,” Del Duca said.
“The relationship between work and personal life is completely unbalanced; it is out of control. I think that, especially during the pandemic, people feel tired and exhausted and we see productivity drop.
The NDP said it would reintroduce one of its private sector members’ bills starting in 2021 that would establish a committee in a four-day workweek to make recommendations on how to implement a pilot project.
Party chairwoman Andrea Horwath said this would allow the government to weigh the pros and cons of a compressed work week.
“We want to make sure that this decision won’t have a negative impact on people’s wages, especially when we know prices are going up everywhere,” she said.
We don’t want to implement the four-day workweek so that people can no longer pay their bills. We will have to ensure that employers will be able to carry out the four-day work week without experiencing a loss of income or are no longer able to work properly.
Ontario Chamber of Commerce CEO Rocco Rossi said a growing number of companies are testing four-day workweeks, but it’s important that those decisions come from employers.
“Governments can encourage or set up incentives to make work more flexible, but they must be careful not to create problems for businesses and the economy,” he wrote in a statement.
Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford said decisions about workweeks are best left to the private sector.
“I’m not going to tell companies what works best for them,” he said.
Successful pilot project
The four-day workweek has already been implemented for employees of the town of Zorra, in southwestern Ontario. What started as an eight-month pilot project turned into a permanent procedure due to the positive response from the workers.
“Everyone really appreciates the four-day week,” said the city’s chief administrative officer, Don McLeod. The atmosphere in the office is more fun than it used to be. Everyone has seen the mental health benefits of extra rest time.”
Mr. MacLeod is using his Monday off to play golf, especially now that the weather is fine, as well as driving his dad to his appointments.
Employees with children believe that the extra day off will allow them to spend more time with them. But since children are often at school on Mondays and Fridays, staff can spend more time on their own activities.
“It’s an opportunity for employees to make appointments with their doctors, do activities they enjoy, or just spend time alone. People like it very much,” Mr. MacLeod added.
“As a business owner, I believe we have a role to play in enabling our employees to better manage their personal lives. Ultimately, it makes them more productive and happier at work.”
To make up for the loss of a working day, the town of Al Zorah has extended the working hours of its employees to nine hours a day. If this is not possible, employees have been given other flexibility measures.
Ryan Mallough of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business notes that small businesses have many questions about this promise from liberals and neo-democrats.
“I think this is something that is easy to accept if you are a law firm or an expert firm. But for merchants, restaurants, and movie theater owners, there are many questions about how to go about this procedure.
“You need to have an overall picture of the scale and not just a headline like ‘Four Days a Week’.
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