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BUSINESS NEWS UK-Royal Society of Arts urges businesses and government to consider a split three-day workweek

Posted 28th May 2020 • Written by •

The Royal Society of Arts is urging UK employers and the government to consider a split three-day week as part of a 12-month strategy for the UK’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

Under the proposals, outlined by RSA chief executive and author of the Taylor Review, Matthew Taylor, workers would be split into ‘A teams’ and ‘B teams’, typically working Monday-Wednesday or Thursday-Saturday.

“Based on best practice from South Korea, this would help enable social distancing at work and would also ease congestion on the roads, cycling infrastructure and public transport,” the Society states.

It added that this split schedule would give employees greater choice to combine paid work with caring, learning, or volunteering, and bridge to a future of more flexible work for both employers and employees. 

The Society also suggests a negative income tax or 'initial' basic income, funded by turning the personal allowance into a direct cash payment for workers, while employers could also benefit from the National Insurance temporarily turning into a positive payment to protect jobs as furloughing is eased. 

Other ideas outlined in the essay include: 

·       Mass digital learning to help employees reskill during their ‘rest’ days in the three-day weeks 

·       An ‘assets for all’ strategy giving low-cost loans and grants to low-income families to avoid problem debt 

·       Turning vacant libraries and other public spaces into learning zones for pupils whose home learning environment is unsuitable 

·       Greater use of deliberative democracy – such as citizens’ juries and panels – to bring scientific and other experts together with the public. 

·       Re-opening restaurants and pubs with pre-booking a necessity, and social distancing officers employed to ensure safety as part of a huge effort to upskill the UK’s private security base  

 Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, said, “We need to get back to work, but there is no going back to normal, even if we wanted to. We are calling for a 12 month ‘back to work’ strategy to help businesses plan, must contain the seeds of a better future – which creates a better future of work, builds our green infrastructure, and brings citizens and experts closer.” 

“Over time, the ‘team A’ and ‘team B’ working could develop into a more permanent three day week, while the negative income tax could become a basic income floor for citizens,” Taylor said. “These ideas and others will clearly be subject to debate, but it’s vital we have new thinking to ‘build back better’ and address the challenges we face, from the climate emergency to mass economic insecurity."

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