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Bill to create 4-day work week program in Massachusetts set for hearing

State lawmakers consider pilot program creating 4-day work week
State lawmakers consider pilot program creating 4-day work week 02:10

11/14 UPDATE: Supporters of a four-day work week program in Massachusetts made their case at the State House on Tuesday. Click here to read more. 

BOSTON - The push to bring a four-day work week to Massachusetts is set to get a hearing on Beacon Hill.

A bill coming before the Labor and Workforce Development Committee on Tuesday morning proposes to give a tax credit to businesses in the state that join a pilot program to explore the possible benefits of a shorter work week.

"Research indicates that four-day work week models have the potential to reduce burnout and boost performance among workers without affecting employer productivity," bill sponsor Rep. Josh Cutler said in a statement. "There has not been a meaningful reduction in working hours since the 40-hour workweek became the standard 84 years ago."

How would the four-day work week program be implemented?

The two-year pilot program would be called the "Massachusetts Smart Work Week Pilot." According to the bill, a four-day work week means "employees receive a meaningful reduction in actual work hours without any reduction in overall pay."

Employees at participating businesses would be allowed to opt out of the program. At the end of the pilot, there would be a report on the economic impact of a four-day work week, as well as how it affects quality of life for employees.

Do four-day work weeks work?

Boston College sociology professor Juliet Schor will be testifying at the hearing. She recently collaborated on a six-month trial involving dozens of companies in the United Kingdom. Instead of 40-hour weeks, thousands of employees worked for 32 hours instead.

The trial showed four-day work weeks are an overwhelming success. All 61 companies said they would not go back to working five days a week, Schor told WBZ-TV.

"They have less stress, less burnout, better physical health, they report better mental health, more positive emotions," Schor said.  

About 15% of workers in the study said "no amount of money" would convince them to working five days a week again. One-third of companies reported a slight improvement in productivity and 15% said there was significant improvement.

Has a four-day work week been tried in Massachusetts?

WBZ-TV went to Swampscott earlier this year, where town workers have tried out a four-day work week.

Question Everything: Is a four-day work week sustainable? 03:54

"It's been great," said Amy Sarro, a mother of a 3-year-old. "It allows me one day when she's not in preschool so we're saving money there, and I also get to spend the day with her."

Swampscott didn't reduce the number of hours that town employees worked, they just consolidated them. Employees worked three nine-hour days from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., plus an 11-hour day on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"We do work, we work hard because now we've got five days squished into four days but it hasn't been a problem," town administrator Sean Fitzgerald said.  

What other states are considering a four-day work week?

Massachusetts isn't the only state looking at a four-day work week. Lawmakers in Maryland introduced a similar bill in January. It did not pass this year as some businesses reportedly didn't embrace the tax credit idea, but it may return in 2024. 

New legislation in New York, California and the U.S. Congress proposed that anyone working more than 32 hours a week should be paid overtime. 

And in schools, almost 900 districts nationwide returned for the fall by adopting 4-day school weeks. In Missouri, the Independence School District superintendent said they've seen teacher applications rise more than four-fold.

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