Australia considers four-day workweek trials for civil servants

The Australian government is exploring trials to implement the four-day workweek for civil servants, with a reduction model in the works for the trials.
By: | January 2, 2024

The four-day workweek continues to see more employees being on board, as Australia’s Capital Territory Government (ACT) is responding to calls from a parliamentary committee to “reduce workloads” with a promise to go ahead with trials for a four day work week for future trials in December.

The government however cautioned that while it was “mindful of the clear benefits a four-day working week would provide”, challenges would still appear. They also acknowledged that staffing in many frontline areas will most likely have to increase to ensure adequate roster cover and ensure service delivery is maintained.

The trials of the four-day workweek, namely in a working group set up by the ACT government, will explore future trials and the public service areas that would participate. This would include administrative and frontline business units, and employees working in both full-time and non-full-time roles. The working group would also determine the best way to engage with the private sector and offer them the opportunity to voluntarily participate in a trial, as well as the support structures that would be required to do so, the ACT government said.

The committee distinguished the difference between “work time compression” and “work time reduction” in its discussion paper, which defined the compression model as squishing the same amount of working hours into fewer days, which the committee’s discussion paper said, “is not beneficial for workers in general and for women in particular”. The ACT working group will look at a reduction model for future trials, which means that there is no loss of pay or conditions for reduced working hours.

The reduction model was the preferred method in a six-month Australasian pilot program run by 4 Day Work Week Global, which 26 companies joined in August.

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It found that 95% of organisations favoured the reduced schedule, which resulted in less stress for workers without lower productivity, and 96% of employees wanted to continue the four-day workweek after the trial wrapped up. These organisations included health insurance organisation Medibank, which experimented with the reduction method in October.