As millions of Americans change jobs, a California politician wants to use the “Great Reset” to create a better work-life balance for workers.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia has co-sponsored a bill to make the official state workweek 32 hours for businesses with 500 or more employees. Any work done beyond this limit would result in a steep increase: employers would be required to pay time-and-a-half pay to workers whose hours exceed 32 hours per week. And work extending beyond 12 hours a day or over seven days a week would be paid at double the normal wage.
Employers subject to the law, which would apply to 20% of California’s workforce, would also be prohibited from reducing people’s pay if they work less than their normal work week, Garcia told CBS News. The bill would not apply to workers represented by a union and covered by a collective agreement.
“After two years of the pandemic, more than 47 million employees left their jobs in search of better opportunities,” Garcia said. “They send a clear message that they want better work-life balance – they want better emotional and mental health, and that’s part of this discussion.”
California’s economy is the fifth largest in the world and the largest among US states, making it an indicator for many aspects of workplace culture.
The proposed law would cover about 2,600 businesses in California, according to the Department of Employment Development.
The California Chamber of Commerce called it a “job killer,” saying it would make hiring more expensive and lead to fewer jobs in California.
“Labour costs are often one of the highest costs a business faces,” House policy advocate Ashley Hoffman wrote to bill co-sponsor Evan Low last week. .
“[B]businesses often operate with low profit margins and…the number of employees you have does not dictate financial success,” she wrote.
Evidence from other countries suggests that a four-day work week can have positive effects, increasing employee productivity while reducing stress. A large trial in Iceland last summer concluded that a shorter working week was a “– 8 out of 10 employees in the country have since switched to working four days a week. Other countries including ScotlandSpain and even famously workaholic Japan have tested shorter working weeks.
Garcia argues that large companies, which have had theircan afford to pay workers more.
“We want to see them share some of that better life with their employees as well,” she told CBS News.
Work more than the peasants
In the United States, a handful of companies have started experimenting with the four-day week. Kickstarter officially kicks off its shortened workweek this month. “[M]I expect and hope that we can achieve the same or better results by changing the way we work,” outgoing CEO Aziz Hasan told Time of the change.
D’Youville College, a small private school in Buffalo, New York, began testing a four-day week in January. President Lorrie Clemo said the move would “enhance the overall well-being of our employees and the competitiveness of our institution.”
But overall, the shortened workweek has been a relative rarity in a country where workers work longer hours than in most other industrialized nations.
The typical American worker today works nearly 1,770 hours a year. Among developed economies, only four countries – Israel, Korea, Russia and Mexico – consistently put in more hours than America. Historical records suggest that 14th century peasants worked far less than contemporary Americans; in contrast, 19th century factory workers worked much longer hours.
Garcia’s bill is similar to a federal billby Mark Takano, a California Democrat, and endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“People are spending more time at work, less time with loved ones, their health and well-being are deteriorating and their wages are stagnating. It’s time for a change,” Takano said in a statement.