In December 2022, the Four-Day Work Week Act, otherwise known as Bill 55, passed its first reading in the Ontario Legislative Assembly. The Four-Day Work Week Act is a private member’s bill proposed by New Democratic Party Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament, Bhutila Karpoche.
Before it becomes law, the Four-Day Work Week Act must still pass a second reading, third reading, and receive royal assent. The second and third readings are not yet scheduled, however, Bader Law will continue to monitor developments in this area.
The preamble of the Four-Day Work Week Act sets out the rationale for the Act, stating that:
“The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in increased worker burnout, leading to poor physical and mental health outcomes. The pandemic has also highlighted the need for greater work-life balance, including more time for family and for rest.”
The preamble goes on to note that several other jurisdictions have implemented successful pilot and permanent four-day work week programs, citing results from these programs that have shown “a four-day work week is beneficial in myriad ways to both worker and employer” including “greater gender equity and job productivity, lower energy consumption, increased workplace morale and improved mental and physical health for workers.”
The Four-Day Work Week Act is intended to help the Ontario government to understand the benefits as well as potential drawbacks of “broadly implementing” a four-day work week in Ontario.
The Four-Day Work Week Act would establish the Four-Day Work Week Commission. This Commission would be tasked with developing recommendations to implement a four-day work week pilot project, which is intended to help determine the effectiveness of a four-day work week in Ontario. The Four-Day Work Week Commission would then provide this report to the Ontario Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. The Minister of Labour will have a maximum of one year to implement the pilot project, which is set to last for one year.
After the completion of the pilot project, the Minister of Labour will prepare a report in consultation with the Four-Day Work Week Commission that sets out recommendations for a four-day work week for Ontario workers. This report will be made publicly available on the Ontario Government’s website.
The details of the Four-Day Work Week pilot program are sparse within the Four-Day Work Week Act, but section 2(5) provides that the pilot must meet the following basic requirements:
- The pilot project will involve a four-day work week for a segment of Ontario workers;
- The hours of work during the four-day work week will not be more than 32 hours; and
- The pilot project’s design will provide information on the effectiveness of a four-day work week in Ontario for public and private sector workers.
It is not yet clear which workers would be included in the four-day work week pilot. However, the Four-Day Work Week Act’s preamble sets out an objective of understanding the impact of a “broad” implementation of a four-day work week in Ontario. The pilot, presumably, will include both public and private sector workers given that its design must provide information on the effectiveness of a four-day work week for both sectors.
It appears that the Four-Day Work Week Act has the potential to apply to many workers within Ontario, however, who it actually applies to is yet to be determined.
If the Four-Day Work Week Act becomes law, the Four-Day Work Week Commission will need to be convened, and their recommendation report on the pilot project will need to be drafted.
Next, the Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development will need to implement the pilot project within a one year period, which will run for one year.
Finally, the Minister of Labour will prepare a report in consultation with the Four-Day Work Week Commission which will set out recommendations to assist in the implementation of a four-day work week in Ontario.
Ontario is not the first jurisdiction to consider a four-day work week. In 2022, more than 30 companies throughout the United States, Ireland, and Australia participated in a six-month pilot project called “4 Day Week Global.” The workers in this pilot received the same rate of pay for working 4 days rather than 5. Results from this pilot appeared positive, with participants reporting less stress and burnout, and higher rates of life satisfaction. Additionally, revenue increased a total of 8% during the trial. When compared to the same time period in 2021, revenue was 38% higher.
Iceland was an early adopter of the four-day work week and conducted a pilot in 2015. During this pilot program, 2,500 employees (which was more than 1% of the country’s workforce) worked reduced hours for 4 years (between 35 and 36) with no reduction in pay. The report on Iceland’s pilot, published in June 2021, found that the shortened working hours had positive impacts on work-life balance, including less stress and more time for friends and family.
Many other companies and organizations have already implemented four-day work weeks. In Ontario, several rural municipalities have moved to a four-day work week for many employees. This includes Zorra and Aylmer Townships in southwestern Ontario, as well as Algonquin Highlands, Springwater, and French River. Algonquin Highlands permanently moved to a four-day work week after conducting a 6-month trial, in which the municipality had two teams that worked different schedules, one working Monday to Thursday, and one Tuesday to Friday, with everyone working one extra hour each day, and breaks being reduced to 30 minutes.
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