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Is it fairer to share work when times are tough?

Is sharing work when times are tough a fairer way of treating workers, rather than lay-offs? A study published by the International Labour Organisation suggests that the UK could learn from how other countries adapted to economic pressure during the downturn.

The report's authors credit work-sharing with saving 400,000 jobs in Germany; 370,000 jobs in Japan, plus over a million jobs saved by reductions in overtime; and approximately 100,000 jobs in Turkey.

Even in the United States, where only a few state-level work-sharing programmes existed in 2009, these small programmes have been credited with saving 165,000 jobs - enough to prompt the enactment of a new Federal work-sharing law.

The authors claim that the design of the work-sharing measures is crucial for their effectiveness, as is active government support and promotion of the programmes.

Essential elements of effective work-sharing programmes include:

  • balanced eligibility criteria for companies and workers
  • minimal, easily adapted administrative requirements for companies
  • flexibility in the volume and patterns of hours reductions.

The report's summary concludes:

"Work sharing is not a magic 'silver bullet'. However, it can be one of a number of measures which help to promote increased employment, improved work-life balance, more sustainable enterprises and economies, and ultimately, more equitable societies."

Acas provides training for employers on Flexible working and Work/life balance, and can tailor training to be delivered in the workplace.

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

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