PCS claims 'progress' in getting four-day week for Defra civil servants

But Defra says there are no plans for a four-day week
Photo: William Barton/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

21 Mar 2024

Civil servants in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have “taken a step closer to working a four-day week”, according to union PCS.

However, Defra has said there are “no plans” for a four-day work week in the department. 

In December, civil servants working in the department submitted a petition asking bosses to trial a four-day week for staff, with backing from PCS and the 4 Day Week Campaign.

Giving an update on the issue, PCS said it has agreed to provide evidence of the benefits – including value-for-money – of introducing a four-day week at Defra “as part of ongoing discussions about the feasibility of such a scheme”.

Earlier this month, PCS set out its pay demands for 2024-45, which included a “significant shortening of the working week” with no reduction in pay, a request which minister for the Cabinet Office, John Glen, quickly rejected.

PCS general secretary Fran Heathcote said: “The rewards of a four-day week are clear to see which is why 92% of employers who have trialled the scheme have gone on to adopt it.

“The trials show a happier, healthier and more productive workforce – things that benefit the employer, the employee and the taxpayer.

“Our agreement with Defra is a significant step forward in achieving a shortening of the working week with no loss of pay for our members.”

Heathcote’s comments on 92% of employers sticking with a four-day week following a trial refer to a UK pilot held last year which saw 61 companies take part and 56 decide to continue with the new way of working beyond the trial period.

PCS has said it will "be conducting analysis of different types of teams and work to examine how a four-day week would work".

Responding to the union's comments, a Defra spokesperson said: “The wellbeing of our skilled staff continues to be our top priority. While there are no plans for a four-day work week, we offer a number of options to support our staff in working flexibly in addition to several supported leave arrangements.”

Defra says it offers flexible working arrangements to all of its staff, including blended working, and different working hours or patterns.

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