Friday 16 February 2018

Four day weeks?

The Dom Post asked me for comment last week on Perpetual Guardian's trial of four-day work weeks. They wanted to know whether I were pro or con. I couldn't really do that: how am I or anyone else outside of the company to know what works best for them? I'm totally 'pro' their being able to try this out, but how could anybody be for or against it as a general policy?

So I gave them this instead, celebrating that companies and workers still have the freedom to come to whatever arrangements work best. For some it could be four day weeks, but it would hardly work for all. 
New Zealand's relatively flexible labour markets allow this kind of innovation, but we should not take them for granted.

Australia's Awards system, for example, is far more prescriptive about the pay and conditions that must be in place in every workplace.

The rules might make sense if one size really did fit all firms in any given industry, but the market is more complicated than that.

If Perpetual Guardian's experiment works for them, firms facing similar circumstances will have to take notice. If it fails, they can revert to the more standard five-day week.

The costs or benefits either way fall with them, so they have every reason to have thought hard about this.

But when regulation sets the conditions across a whole industry, experimentation like Perpetual's becomes much too hard.

And if MBIE gets things wrong, firms and workers bear the costs.

Let's celebrate Kiwis' ability to innovate, while we still have it.

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