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July 11, 2021

Is it the end of the 40-hour workweek?

Is the 40-hour workweek still relevant in today's society?

In a report issued last month, the International Labour Organization (ILO) noted that reducing work hours can have a positive affect on employment levels during a severe economic downturn.

It also discusses the use of work-sharing to generate jobs and for the preservation of existing jobs.

I can relate to the latter.

When my company was downsizing, I had the least seniority so I was faced with being laid off.

However, thanks to some creativity in the management department, they reduced my hours to part-time along with the next person with the least seniority.

It did save my job...for a while anyway, but it didn't go over too well with the other employee who also faced the reduced hours to save my job and the company money.

In the end, we were both faced with the grim reality of eventually being laid off due to more company downsizing.

Shortening work hours can be used to create more jobs for others, according to the ILO report. Fewer hours for one translates into more work time for others.

As employers cut back, many employees are forced to shorten their workweek. Some greet it with a sigh of relief while others, who depend on the full-time earnings, are left high and dry.

According to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), the amount of time we spend at work affects our time available for other activities including caring for family members, learning, leisure, volunteering and even rest.

However, it notes that employment also affects earnings and contributes to the overall economic productivity.

HRDSC statistics show that employed Canadians were working fewer hours per week on average in 2011 compared to three decades ago. Men worked on average almost six hours more per week than their female counterparts.

Reducing the hours in a workweek does not necessarily have to be in response to downsizing or the company's bottom line.

If a company introduces a policy to provide employees with a shorter workweek it can therefore spread the hours amongst more workers. This in turn provides more people with an opportunity to earn an income and to have more time for those other neglected activities.

By Donna Donaldson, MSN Money

What do you think about a shorter workweek? Do you think it benefits both employees and employers?



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...