CORK could lead the way in making four-day work weeks the norm in Ireland, according to a north-central by-election candidate.
Labour city councillor John Maher believes the proliferation of multinationals and business sector leaders based in the city means Cork is primed to become a hub for flexible working weeks which could have the knock-on effect of reducing traffic congestion and cost savings in the public and private sector.
Mr Maher told The Echo that working arrangements that reflect a better work/life balance - while employees still work contracted hours - could be achieved through a combination of the private sector in Cork working with employees, Government legislation and national and local government becoming more flexible as employers themselves.
“Companies need to take the lead on this. We don’t work 9-5pm anymore. Those days are long gone. It won’t work in all work disciplines but it will in some," he said.
“Maybe legislation could be introduced but maybe the Government and local authorities could pave the way by doing it with their own staff.
"We've seen companies and societies right around the world sign up for a four day week. If Japan, a culture that values work above all else is able to sign up, then why not in Cork?
"There are already businesses in the city trialling it to a certain degree. We should be encouraging more and more businesses to examine it with workers. The Trade Union Forsa has shown that there is no link between working longer hours and greater productivity. The days of the pit are long behind us. We have international firms in the city and county who would relish better standards and better profits and productivity from their Irish operations.
"Most importantly it benefits workers. Allowing an extra day of leisure would benefit mental health standards immensely in this country. This is something we need to champion here in Cork. We have the workers, we have the firms, we just need the political will to make it happen," Mr Maher added.
Microsoft recently trialled a four-day workweek for its staff in Japan and reported that productivity increased by 40%. Savings were made by the company on electricity costs and paper during the trial.