MPs urge Rishi Sunak to bring in four-day week after coronavirus

Labour MPs urge Rishi Sunak to bring in a four-day working week in bid to tackle unemployment and overhaul the UK economy after coronavirus

  • Letter signed by MPs including ex Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell
  • Reduced working week would give new opportunities to people left unemployed
  • They argue that shorter week would help make sure ‘work is shared more easily’  
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is being urged to consider a four-day working week as part of efforts to overhaul the economy after the coronavirus pandemic.

A letter signed by MPs including former Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Guardian columnist Owen Jones, argues for reducing working hours so that ‘work is shared more equally’. 

The letter, sent to the Treasury, adds that a four-day week would give more opportunities to people left unemployed as a result of the impact of coronavirus on the economy.  

The calls come after figures revealed last week showed that the UK economy contracted by a record 20.4 per cent in April. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is being urged to consider a four-day working week as part of efforts to overhaul the economy after the coronavirus pandemic

Boris Johnson also reportedly warned his cabinet that 4.5million people could be  left without jobs as a result of the pandemic. 

The latest figures show that unemployment climbed to 1.3million last month.   

The concept of a four-day working week was also suggested by New Zealand’s prime minister.

Labour also suggested in its election manifesto last December that people could work a 32-hour week, with no loss of pay. 

But the campaigners who signed the letter, which was revealed by the Independent, believe ‘shorter working time presents itself as one of the best options for fundamentally restructuring the economy so that work is shared more equally.’ 

A letter signed by MPs including former Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Guardian columnist Owen Jones, argues for reducing working hours so that ‘work is shared more equally’

The letter, sent to the Treasury, adds that a four-day week would give more opportunities to people left unemployed as a result of the impact of coronavirus on the economy

They add: ‘A four-day week would give many more opportunities to the growing list of unemployed people which already stands at 2.8 million people.’

The MPs and other public figures argue that shorter working time has previously been used to respond to economic crises.

They highlight how the Great Depression of the 1930s led to the ‘normalisation’ of the eight-hour day and the 40-hour week.

The letter also cites a recent comment by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said proposals like the four-day working week are ‘no longer things we should just be talking about.’ 

The campaigners, who also include Labour MPs Ian Lavery and John Trickett and Dave Ward, the general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, argue that mental health and wellbeing would improve if the length of the working week was reduced.   

It comes after a former boss of Wickes and Iceland warned that almost half of retailers are in danger of ‘going bust’.

Retail expert Bill Grimsey said nearly half of retailers were already in danger and increases in online shopping amid the coronavirus pandemic has sped up the process.

He said the ‘old high street is finished’ and town centres can only survive if the Government gives more powers to local authorities and people who have a ‘vested interest in their communities’. 

It comes after a former boss of Wickes and Iceland warned that almost half of retailers are in danger of ‘going bust’ 

Retail expert Bill Grimsey said nearly half of retailers were already in danger and increases in online shopping amid the coronavirus pandemic has sped up the process

Mr Grimsey’s comments followed the third Grimsey Review, which looked into the state of the UK high street, being published on Saturday.

Among its 27 recommendations are calls to replace ‘outdated’ business rates with a sales tax.

It also calls for unused properties to be forced back onto the market so they can be bought by community trusts to serve their neighbourhoods. 

Mr Grimsey said: ‘Before the pandemic, 50 per cent of businesses were in danger of going bust. Covid has accelerated and exposed the process of people ditching bricks-and-mortar retail and shopping online instead.

‘People are starting to think differently, when they come out of lockdown, their attitudes will change for the better, they will start to appreciate their local communities, breathing cleaner air and enjoying the wildlife.

‘They have realised there is a better life out there, built around those who have a vested interest in their communities and not by big distant investors, and I believe this has been highlighted by the pandemic.’

The team behind the Grimsey Review argued ‘only localism on steroids’ could revive failing high streets.  

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