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Would UK workers benefit from a three-day weekend?

The decision of the Gambian president to give public sector workers a three-day weekend, so they could have more time to pray, farm and socialise, triggered a chorus of disapproval from critics. They said that the extra day off would encourage laziness and hurt the country's economy. While the chances of something similar happening in the UK may be less than zero, there are many who say that the British workforce would benefit from a reappraisal of its work-life balance.

UK employees work some of the longest hours in Europe and are estimated to contribute about £29 billion to the economy every year in unpaid overtime. Almost half of UK employers work for more than 40 hours a week, and one in ten for more than 48 hours, according to the recent Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS). The study also found that two in five workers agreed or strongly agreed that to progress they'd have 'to put in long hours'; the figure was greater for managers (49 per cent) and professionals (59 per cent).

The problem is that long hours don't necessarily mean increased productivity. Sometimes the reverse is true, and a long-hours culture has been shown to cause a reduction in productivity, engagement and morale. According to WERS, most employees (69 per cent) who were working more than 48 hours per week said their job made them feel tense all, most or some of the time.

Acas provides training that will help employers and managers better understand issues that can improve Work/life balance, such as flexible working, stress, and health, work and wellbeing.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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