Scottish government skills development body refuses to pilot four-day week, says UNISON

UNISON, the union for Skills Development Scotland workers, has lambasted the skills body for refusing to pilot a four-day week – despite it being a Scottish government policy.

The union called for the organisation to set up a four-day week pilot as part of last year’s pay deal. UNISON balloted its members, who overwhelmingly supported the idea, but the plan was rejected by the employer this week.

UNISON, Scotland’s largest trade union, is now calling for an urgent meeting with the new cabinet minister for Skills and Fair Work to discuss a way forward.

The four-day week is supported by most political parties in the Scottish Parliament, including the SNP who said it would establish a £10 million fund to allow employers ‘to pilot and explore the benefits of a four-day working week’. Skills Development Scotland, as lead organisation for Fair Work, is ideally placed to develop this policy, says UNISON.

Derek Cheyne, UNISON Skills Development Scotland branch secretary, said: “The four-day week is something that has worked successfully in New Zealand, Iceland, Sweden and even Microsoft in Japan – and their productivity increased. We are simply asking Skills Development Scotland to trial the idea. Let’s see what the difference is, all the evidence suggests it’s a win-win for employer and employees. We would set up a joint employer and trade union group to monitor this new way of working.”

Emma Phillips, UNISON regional organiser, said: “Since the pandemic the way we work has changed: we are working from home more; technology is moving on; and we are used to flexible working. No one is asking to do less work – quite the opposite – we are asking to work more efficiently. Think of the benefits more widely to society. Less carbon footprint; improved mental well-being and more time at home with the family. It is at least worth a pilot.”


Notes to editor

  • UNISON is the largest trade union in Scotland and UK. We are the public services trade union and the largest trade union in Skills Development Scotland.
  • SNP manifesto ‘Support new ways of working, pilot a four day week’
  • Skills Development Scotland members voted overwhelmingly to reject last year’s pay offer due to Skills Development Scotland’s refusal to take forward a four-day week pilot. 86% voted to reject the offer with an 80% turnout on the ballot.
  • Before Covid-19, Gothenburg’s Toyota factory moved mechanics to a six-hour day – output rose by 14 per cent and profits by 25%. Sweden conducted a trial with care home nurses working six hours, five days a week. Nurses logged fewer sick hours, reported better health and it improved quality of care. Public services unions in Reykavik negotiated a four-hour reduced working week for 2,200 local authority employees, with less sickness, improved employee satisfaction and no loss in productivity. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, suggests employers consider a four-day working week to boost tourism, and the economy.

UNISON contacts

Emma Phillips, UNISON regional organiser, 07841 901890.

Derek Cheyne, Skills Development Scotland Branch secretary, 07725 556806.

Danny Phillips 07944 664110 / Trisha Hamilton: 07943 507307.