A proposal from California Democrats to institute a statewide four-day workweek for hourly employees has been shelved, for now.
The bill failed to advance after the California State Assembly’s Labor and Employment Committee declined to set it for a policy hearing, said Evan Low, the Democratic state assembly member who co-wrote the proposed legislation. That decision effectively ends the bill’s chances of progressing in the current legislative session, he said.
The proposal would have required private-sector employers with more than 500 employees to pay hourly workers overtime after logging more than 32 hours a week. California Democrats introduced the bill earlier this year after a number of recent corporate experiments with a four-day workweek.
Lawmakers decided against advancing the bill, given there was too little time to fully study its implications before taking the next legislative step, Mr. Low said.
“We don’t have the time to put in the thorough policy analysis that fully incorporates the perspectives of the employers and employees, as well as factoring any of the other data points,” he said.
Still, he said he wasn’t giving up on legislating a four-day workweek. He plans to hold an informational hearing with stakeholders to better understand what changes would need to be made to the bill to give it a better shot of advancing.
The four-day workweek has been talked about for decades, and some companies and localities already define a 32-hour week as full time. More recently, the approach has gained new momentum as employers grapple with an intensely competitive labor market and employee demands for more work-life balance after two years of working through a pandemic. Companies including crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and Unilever New Zealand have launched pilot programs in recent months to give their workers shortened schedules.
Working fewer hours produces varying results, research has found. One study out of Iceland found that shorter hours improved productivity and reduced stress. Studies out of Germany and France found that reducing hours didn’t increase employment.
Some economists have warned that shortening the workweek while keeping wages the same and paying additional overtime would be too costly for businesses. It could push companies to shift more jobs out of state and give them less room to raise wages.
The California Chamber of Commerce, which had added the four-day workweek bill to its “job killer list,” said it was relieved the bill hadn’t advanced. Employers, already dealing with labor shortages, would have to either find additional workers, curtail operations or pay their staff overtime to compensate for a shorter workweek, said Ashley Hoffman, a policy advocate with the chamber.
“That’s quite expensive,” Ms. Hoffman said.
A better alternative, she said, would be to let workers negotiate with their employers the ability to work longer shifts spread out among fewer days.