Listen to this article Congressman Proposes 32-Hour Workweek As U.S. Law To Promote Human Happiness
The four-day workweek has become increasingly popular, and one California Congressman proposes to make it a federal law. Rep. Mark Takano, who represents California’s 39th district, has reintroduced his 32-hour Workweek Act to Congress. If passed, the bill would reduce the standard definition of the workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours by amending the Fair Labor Standards Act. The proposal would mandate overtime pay for any work done after 32 hours, encouraging businesses to either pay workers more for longer hours or hire more people.
Coverage and Purpose
The bill applies to non-exempt workers in various sectors, including leisure and hospitality, transportation, construction, manufacturing, wholesale, and retail trade. Takano designed the bill to encourage “serious conversations about the reduced workweek” in sectors beyond white-collar professions, so that “everybody benefits.” His passion for the 32-hour workweek stems from his belief that it could bring about “a significant change which will increase the happiness of humankind.”
Benefits and Support
Supporters of the 32-hour workweek believe that a shortened week would push businesses to hire more people, increase labor market participation, and create “healthier competition in the workplace that empowers workers to negotiate for better wages and working conditions.” In 2021, the bill was endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, but it ultimately failed to advance in Congress. However, the reintroduction of the bill follows headlines about the success of a global pilot program and new proposals circulating in Maryland.
Global Pilot Program
Nearly 3,000 U.K. workers at 61 companies recently completed a six-month pilot of the shortened week run by nonprofit 4 Day Week Global. Businesses reported improved productivity, revenue, morale, and team culture, whereas individuals saw benefits for their health, finances, and relationships. More than 900 workers across 33 businesses in the U.S. and Ireland ran through the same program last year, and none of them are going back to a five-day model.
Opposition and Concerns
Not everyone is on board with a 32-hour workweek law. Critics oppose the legislation for its “one-size-fits-all approach,” fearing that it could exacerbate staffing shortages, raise labor costs, and create difficulties for businesses trying to recover from the pandemic. The Society for Human Resource Management, for instance, previously issued a statement opposing similar legislation introduced in the California Assembly last year. The statement was written by Emily M. Dickens, chief of staff and head of government affairs at SHRM, who argued that a similar bill could make life more difficult for HR professionals and businesses “struggling to recover from the worst days of the pandemic.”
Despite these concerns, Takano remains optimistic about the 32-hour Workweek Act. He believes that the next step is to “get more and more people understanding the arguments for it, to bring in the business executives and the employees who’ve experienced positive effects of a shorter workweek, and begin to reduce the anxieties around change.” By involving stakeholders in discussions, he hopes to reduce resistance and eventually pass the bill.
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