Without salary reductions and with a maximum of 32 hours of work: this is the four-day work week of the Valencian Community according to its promoter
The four-day workweek has been heard with increasing force for about two years now, and now its sound has become thunderous. To the different proposals and tests that have been carried out in the private sector, both abroad and in Spain, it will be added shortly the first public aid program to extend this reduction in working hours to 32 hours a week in our country: the one that the Valencian Community is going to launch for 2022, with a budget of 10 million euros.
The project has both defenders and detractors, and has two very important pitfalls: on the side of businessmen, concern about how they will maintain profitability if their employees work less and charge the same, and that of the workers, the fear that their salary will be reduced in proportion to the hours they stop working. To resolve these and other doubts, at Xataka we have spoken with the main promoter of the Valencian plan, Enric Nomdedéu, Secretary of Employment of the Generalitat.
Nomdedéu explains that the long-term intention of the program is to improve the productivity of Spanish companies through better organization and the improvement of the quality of life of its workers, since it considers that employees can do the same by working one day less if the company makes them happier and less stressed.
“We have encountered an organizational problem, our companies are poorly organized. With this program, what we want offer is the possibility of improving their productivity through financial aid, hiring and training, endowing them with innovative instruments that allow them to produce the same with fewer hours of work ”, he points out.
The Valencian plan, therefore, has three lines of action as regards companies. The first, and most important, is direct financial aid. The Generalitat will offer a subsidy that will compensate 100% for the weekly working day that is subtracted from the employee during the first year, 50% during the second and 25% the third, since it aims for the progressive improvement of productivity to be effective in three years. “It seemed clear to us that it is going to cost companies at the beginning and we consider that it will be a progressive advantage, so we are going to make up the difference during those three years,” explains Nomdedéu.
Second, the program of the Valencian Community to extend the four-day workweek includes a game of hiring aid for companies that consider it necessary to hire more employees to cover the job that will cease to be performed by professionals who reduce their working hours. Here again, the grants will have a maximum duration of three years.
Finally, the Generalitat has included training and support programs for company executives, with the aim that they learn new ways to organize your companies using innovative tools and strategies that already work in other organizations. This section will be configured through institutions such as technological institutes or chambers of commerce.
No pay cuts
Regarding workers, the Secretary of Employment of the Generalitat emphasizes Two unavoidable conditions for companies to be eligible for subsidies: that the reduction of the working day is negotiated and accepted by the employees, and that their salary is not lowered in any case. To ensure that this is met, the Administration will monitor the activity of the company through inspections during the time that it applies to the plan, a supervision that will also serve to check if the objectives of increasing productivity are being met and detect what is wrong if not.
Another essential condition is that employees actually work 32 hours a week or less. That is to say, It is not about them doing their tasks ten hours a day from Monday to Thursday, but about a real reduction of the time worked.
In fact, they do not have to work four days a week for the company to receive assistance. Nomdedéu explains that the company and employees can decide jointly, in the negotiation, the way in which they distribute the 32 working hours, and it will be just as valid for the subsidy if they establish that they will work every working day, but fewer hours each working day.
To develop this aid plan, the Secretary of Employment of the Generalitat affirms that They have been based on several previous experiences and have commissioned three reports on the feasibility of implementing the four-day workweek widely, in all productive sectors. The studies, to which Xataka has had access, point out that it is feasible provided that some important obstacles are overcome, such as the aforementioned of the reluctance of employers who consider that this reduction in the hours worked will negatively impact their accounts of results.
For this reason, Nomdedéu and his team thought that compensation for possible initial losses could be a good solution. It remains to be seen if three years are enough to cover the negative impact of this change in working hours.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Employment has maintained meetings with Spanish companies and organizations from different sectors that, in one way or another, have tried to reduce the working week to four days or 32 hours, like Software del Sol, 4Suma! or Mercadona, which during the pandemic applied a reduction in the working hours of its employees.
From all those conversations and research, as well as data to configure the plan, they also drew an important conclusion: that the reduction of working hours can be applied in any sector.
“The 4Suma! is made up of hospitality businesses, and they have managed to make the 32-hour work week work without reducing their productivity. How? Innovating. For example, they were among the first to use, even before the pandemic, QR codes to order, in such a way that the command came directly to the kitchen and the waiters were only dedicated to serving and collecting. This plan will benefit all types of companies, only that each one, depending on its characteristics, will have to study how to improve performance with the available resources ”, explains Nomdedéu.
Consensus with employers and unions
Likewise, the Secretary of Employment of the Generalitat points out that they have also presented the proposal to Valencian employers and unions so that they can evaluate it and present possible changes. According to it, the workers’ representatives have strongly agreed with the proposal as long as it did not mean an economic loss in salary, although somewhat skeptical that employers would accept the conditions.
The bosses, for their part, were somewhat more reticent at the beginning, but agreed to show its support after the Generalitat agreed to make some modifications to the original text of the project.
The aid program, which will be made official through an autonomous order, will be published shortly, as Nomdedéu explains to Xataka, and its endowment will be included in the Generalitat’s Budgets for 2022.