Unions are concerned about the effects of working longer days. / SUR

Spain wants to reactivate plan for a four-day working week

The government is expected to give details this month of financial assistance available for companies who take part in a pilot scheme for a 32-hour week with no reduction in salary

LUCÍA PALACIOS Madrid

The debate about shortening the working week in Spain to 32 hours has been revived recently after the agreement reached by the Belgian coalition government to allow employees to concentrate their working hours into four days. For the moment, Belgium is not planning on shortening the working day, but gives workers the chance to add one or two hours a day so they can have three days off a week, or work more hours one week so they can do less the next.

This is something that has been pending in Spain for more than a year, after the government agreed to set up a pilot project of 32 hours’ work a week and no reduction in salary. The idea was for about 200 companies to introduce this measure last year, but it has been delayed. Nevertheless, this month the Ministry of Industry is expected to publish details of the assistance available for companies which participate in a trial scheme, and 10 million euros have been assigned for this in the 2022 Budget.

Companies will be free to take part if they wish to do so and will receive a grant to compensate for the costs associated with their employees working fewer hours, such as taking on more staff, training, or purchasing new equipment or IT materials.

Unions are concerned that concentrating working hours into fewer days will neither help work-home conciliation nor improve employees’ quality of life. In fact, they warn that working ten hours a day can have negative effects on mental and physical health, but they are pleased that the matter is under discussion again because their aim is for people to work fewer hours overall.

Mari Carmen Barrera, the UGT’s secretary for European Policies, says this is a first step to opening the debate. The UGT considers that at a European level “we are at a key moment”, because two important transitions are being looked at simultaneously: digital transition and the transition to a decarbonised, sustainable and fairer society.

“Both of these are going to have a very important impact on work, and that’s why we want to talk about reducing the length of the working day, because it would be beneficial for workers in terms of conciliation, equality, job distribution and health, and, above all will reinforce the European pillar of social rights,” says the UGT.