California’s Four-Day Workweek May Be on the Way

A person sitting at a table facing a laptop with a video meeting screen open with 4 other people on screen.
A person sitting at a table facing a laptop with a video meeting screen open with 4 other people on screen.
Photo by Surface on Unsplash

By Chujun Tang

 

SACRAMENTO, CA – State assembly member Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) introduced a bill that would shorten the mandatory workweek from 40 hours to 32. If the proposal, Assembly Bill 2932, is approved by the legislature, California will become the first state in the U.S. to mandate a four-day workweek.

 

“We’ve had a five-day workweek since the Industrial Revolution,” Garcia said, “but we’ve had a lot of progress in society, and we’ve had a lot of advancements. I think the pandemic right now allows us the opportunity to rethink things, to reimagine things.”

 

The bill covers all employers in California with more than 500 workers. According to the statistics from the state’s Employment Department, it would impact about 2,600 businesses and more than 3.6 million workers. It also requires employers to pay time-and-a-half to those who work in excess of 32 hours, without curtailing the pay rate.

 

The United States is the largest economy in the world, with California being the fifth-largest in the world. Data seems to show that the US is lagging behind industrial countries in terms of reducing the stress of workers. The average American worker works nearly 1,770 hours a year, which––among developed countries––is only less than Mexico, Russia, Korea, and Israel. 

 

Before California launched its ambitious plan, a four-day workweek had gained popularity in several countries. Spain announced a voluntary, nationwide, three-year trial of a 32-hour workweek. Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Sanna Marin of Finland, and Japan’s annual economic policy guidelines each proposed a four-day workweek as a consideration.

 

Some companies and organizations in the US have used the four-day workweek mode, like Bolt and Buffer. They reported that the employees were able to balance their work and life better and did not need to struggle to complete the work during the shortened workweek. In January of 2022, D’Youville College announced a transition to a four-day workweek pattern for all staff without curtailing the pay rate. It became the first college in the country to adopt the four-day schedule and resulted in better experiences for both staff and students.

 

Advocates of the proposal view the shortening of the workweek as an incentive for workers during the pandemic, to boost their morale, improve their mental health, and thus increase productivity. An increase of remote work during the pandemic also demands more flexibility in the work schedule.

 

“After two years of being in the pandemic, we’ve had over 47 million employees leave their job looking for better opportunities,” Garcia said. “They’re sending a clear message they want a better work-life balance — they want better emotional and mental health, and this is part of that discussion.”

 

However, there is a potential loss of businesses caused by the shortened workweek. The new proposal means that employers must face the surge of marginal labor costs, as they pay fixed costs for training and overhead while enforcing less working hours. To fulfill the same workload they may have to  hire more workers or pay overtime.

 

“Such a large increase in labor costs will reduce businesses’ ability to hire or create new positions and will therefore limit job growth in California,” said Ashley Hoffman, a policy advocate at the California Chamber of Commerce, a business advocacy group.

 

AB 2932 is currently with the Labor and Employment Committee for review.

 

About The Author

Jordan Varney received a masters from UC Davis in Psychology and a B.S. in Computer Science from Harvey Mudd. Varney is editor in chief of the Vanguard at UC Davis.

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11 Comments

  1. Dave Hart

    Makes a lot of sense especially when one considers most people probably only work an actual 32 hours per week out of the mandatory 40 hours.  Another way of saying it is that most people get most of their work done in the first 32 hours of a 40 hour work week.  But I can hear the wails now…the same as those in the late 19th century when confronting the idea of the 40-hour work week:  it will ruin businesses and it will be impossible to make any kind of profit if we can’t work people 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week.

    1. Keith Olson

      most people probably only work an actual 32 hours per week out of the mandatory 40 hours. 

      So will they also only work 24 hours a week out of their mandatory 32 hour schedule?

    1. Bill Marshall

      According to the chart cited, the top 0.2 of employers employ about 33.8 % of the workforce… not 21.5%… Keith O’s comment,

      That’s a sizable chunk.

      is even more ‘spot on’…

      or, are my eyes, and now math, failing me?

  2. Keith Olson

    It also requires employers to pay time-and-a-half to those who work in excess of 32 hours, without curtailing the pay rate.

    However, there is a potential loss of businesses caused by the shortened workweek. The new proposal means that employers must face the surge of marginal labor costs, as they pay fixed costs for training and overhead while enforcing less working hours. To fulfill the same workload they may have to  hire more workers or pay overtime.

    You talk about even more inflation inducing government intervention.  Employers will have to hike the price of their products even more to pay the higher labor costs associated with this dumb legislation.

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      Actually, some employers have ‘another out’… they could define them as ‘management’, pay them the same, and perhaps give them a few ‘management’ or ‘administrative’ leave days… maybe 5…

  3. Don Shor

    The Resnicks (Pom, Haloes, etc.) and the Gallos (biggest winery family) would be significantly affected by this bill and they are big donors to Newsom. If this manages to get through the legislature, I seriously doubt he would sign it.

    There is no question this would increase inflationary pressures.

  4. Dave Hart

    Something needs to be done about the fact that fewer and fewer workers are needed to produce the sum total of goods and services in this modern world.  The choice may well be employ everyone for fewer hours per week or see the ranks of the totally unemployed grow ever larger.  That should give us all some pause to consider what a world looks like with a majority of the population unemployed.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Something needs to be done about the fact that fewer and fewer workers are needed to produce the sum total of goods and services in this modern world.

      And so that’s why businesses are hurting to find workers in the US, for example?  Disconnect…

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