Fire Away Q&A: Four Day Work Weeks

Fire Away Q&A: Four Day Work Weeks


What are your thoughts about the four day
work week? Are there any legal implications for doing
so? I’ll remind you Rob, that you’re in the U.S.
which has very different employment laws so none of my comments apply to your situation. But it’s a great question, we’re seeing a
lot more different employment relationships, you know the days of 9 to 5 as you said Rob
are long gone for most of us, but we see a lot more part time work, a lot more contract
work, we see a lot more short term work, and the reality is even though the standard work
week is still sort of a 35 or 37.5 or maybe a 40 hour work week, we see a lot of other
people who have part time arrangements and of course there’s nothing legally wrong with
that, there’s nothing legally wrong with a four day work week. What I see though, and what we often see,
are the issues that arise because the parties aren’t really on the same page, so what we
see is someone who is, you know a company trying to cram five days worth of work into
four days, and the employee thought they were really signing up for a true, 80% of the job
type of deal. So what we often see is that it becomes you
know four 15 hour days, or recently I saw a situation where someone was hired in a sort
of managerial type of role, they had young children at home, and they were very specifically
looking for something that would be no more than three days a week, and they thought they
found it. They had an agreement which said you will
be working in the office three days a week, I think it was 9 to 5, maybe 9 to 6, something
like that, but her assumption was that the other two days a week, plus the weekend, were
her time. The employer’s assumption was that she would
not be in the office on those two days, but she’d be available by phone, by email, by
text etc., and it very quickly came to a head, and the parties realized, and I should mention
neither party had legal advice when they entered into this agreement, so they really hadn’t
papered it properly and that was the issue we had, we had to sort of piece together what
the agreement was, and see if we could put it in writing, and in that case we were never
really able to, but the point is for the most part, four day work week, three day work week,
there’s no legal issues there, the only challenge might be if you try to cram too much into
those days because certain provinces in Canada have not only limits on number of hours in
a week, but limits on the number of hours in a day, so you need to make sure you’re
not going over the number of hours in a day. Of course this only applies to certain types
of employees, so it doesn’t apply to managers, supervisors, professionals – lawyers for example,
are not covered, you can make us work as many hours as you want, but for the most part that’s
the only real thing that’s going to come up is are you having the person work too many
hours in a day. The other wrinkle that occasionally arises
and we’ve had to advise a few clients on this is if you have someone who works typically
let’s say three days a week, Wednesday through Friday, and as you know most statutory holidays
in Canada are on Mondays, so what happens with statutory holiday if the person never
works on a Monday? And there are provisions for that in every
piece of legislation, so you’ve got to be mindful of things like that, of the hours
of work, other than that there’s no legal issues that arise from the four day or any
variation of the work week, it’s really, you know the key thing to me is making sure that
whatever the agreement is, both parties understand it and it’s documented clearly, because often
issues arise down the road and if it’s not clear you’re going to end up in some sort
of dispute.

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