A four-day workweek promotes gender equity in the workplace and enables male employees to help their partners with household duties, says Grace Tallon, director of operations at the Work Time Reduction Center of Excellence.
The responsibility for childcare or elder care has traditionally fallen on women, she adds, so shorter workweeks can level the playing field. “In many cases, women have already been working shorter workweeks — doing the same amount of work as their male [counterparts], while taking reduced pay . . . to maintain work-life balance.”
Since Ontario-based law firm the Ross Firm adopted a four-day workweek program in 2020, it found the condensed schedule allowed its women employees to better juggle their work and family lives, notes Tallon. In addition, she says recent four-day workweek trials in the U.K. found male employees at participating companies were able to increase the amount of time they spent looking after children and take on more household chores.
“The time men at these companies spent parenting increased by more than a quarter (27 per cent) during their reduced workweek — more than double the increase for women (13 per cent) — demonstrating that a shortened workweek for males can also benefit their female partners.”
It’s incumbent on employers to create environments that allow women to thrive in their careers, says Tallon, citing flexible working as one example. Often, women opt to walk away from the workplace until their children are older and, when they eventually return to work, they end up having to race to catch up to their male counterparts. “It’s going to be very, very interesting to watch over the coming months and years, the change that this [policy] is going to make because I think it’s going to be absolutely transformational.
It’s very early now to look at the figures and . . . research [to see] what this will actually do for gender equity,” she continues. “The WTR Center of Excellence believes four-day workweeks will move the needle more than any policy that’s on the table for consideration in terms of really making that change in the workplace and at home.”