Gambia's four-day week: could it work in the UK?

Feb 1, 2013

Employees in Britain might fancy Fridays off too - but bosses say it's impractical

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ARE you yawning your way through Friday, wishing the final day of the working week would end soon? For public-sector workers in Gambia, that dream has become a reality after the West African country ordered a four-day week to give workers more time to pray and socialise.

Gambia's president Yahya Jammeh (pictured) is known for his "eccentric" behaviour, the BBC reports, but the move will allow some workers in the majority-Muslim country to observe a day of prayer. To make up the time employees will spend an extra two hours a day at work from 8am to 6pm Monday to Thursday.

The change, which comes in today, was criticised by opposition politician Omar Amadou Jallow of the Gambia's Peoples' Progressive Party. He told African paper JollofNews it was the most "ludicrous" idea he had heard of. "Every sane Gambian will be against this decision," he said.

But is a four-day week really such a crazy idea? Last year the New Economics Foundation think tank urged UK companies to introduce it and make their workers "healthier and happier", the Evening Standard notes. The NEF argued the scheme would also reduce pressure on public services and increase employment.

A worker at American search engine optimisation company Slingshot, which operates a four-day, 40-hour week, recommended it. Steven Shattuck, 28, told the BBC the work-free Friday was a huge recruiting draw and allowed workers to "recharge". He explained: "On Monday mornings people aren't so groggy - they hit the ground running. We have really tight deadlines, it's very collaborative, we try to squeeze as much into our days as possible."

But Monday-Thursday working weeks aren’t successful in every case. In the US state of Utah, the experiment was abandoned after just three days, and it remains a mere dream for UK workers. John Walker, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, called it "impractical". He said: "Setting mandatory working days and hours would be far too prescriptive and simply unrealistic for the vast majority of employers."

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