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The 4 day work week?

A story in the Star recently examined how some Canadian companies have taken a liking to the concept of cramming 40 hours into 4, 10 hour work days, rather than the more common 5 day work week.  This isn’t a new idea.  It’s been floating around for decades as a possibility that might improve employee morale (by giving permanent long weekends) and efficiency (for example, by lowering overhead costs or reducing the number of shift turnovers).  According to the story, the 4 day work week is attracting renewed interest because of rising fuel costs, which make it more expensive to keep machinery running and raises the cost of employee commutes.

The story focuses on Daimler-Chrysler, and notes that the company is in discussions with the Canadian Auto Workers, which represents the workers.   Depending on the language in a collective agreement regarding hours of work, a unionized employer may need to bargain a change from a five-day to a four-day work week.  What about a non-union employer?  Do you think a non-union employer could introduce such a change?

It’s an easy question if the employment contract gives the employer the unilateral right to change hours and work schedules.  Likewise if the employee agrees to the change, and many might.  Presumably, consideration would flow both ways under such an arrangement, so an agreement to change hours and days of  work would be enforceable.

How about if the contract is silent, and the employee doesn’t want to change her work schedule?  Perhaps the employee has family responsibilities that prevent her from working 10 hour days.  Do you think that a unilateral change in a work schedule from 5 to 4 days would amount to a constructive dismissal?  Should the employer be permitted to make this change without the employee’s agreement?


3 Responses to The 4 day work week?

  1. Ryan Reply

    August 25, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Even if the contact is silent, couldn’t the employer also give substantial notice with respect to the change in the hours of work, e.g. a year to be safe? Though, there’s that recent case (the name escapes me) about the executive who vocally protested the change to the termination provision of his contract, and did so all throughout the notice period. If I recall correctly, the court found in his favour.

  2. Linda Reply

    December 3, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    if a non-union company changes without the employee’s agreeing to do so, can this be done? I had the understanding that if it was change it had to be approved by state and employee’s

  3. tina anne Reply

    January 26, 2009 at 9:55 am

    tmmc (toyota) cambridge has a 4 day work week for january. but it is cutting back o.t. too and the loss of friday income means 32 hour work week for us. i wish it would cram 40 hours of work into 4 days!!! we d get paid the same and have a long weekend.. and it also means we cant secure something for ourselves outside toyota for the friday in case one week it changes and we have to work it.
    cant collect ei for the loss of that day pay even though we didnt return to a fulltime job so its a lose lose at this point..sux.

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