In Sweden, companies have decided to reduce the day from 8 hours to 6 hours, while keeping employees at the same salary, hoping to reduce sick leave and increase productivity. It is a success in Sweden, but is it realistic in Quebec?
The experience was launched in 2014 in Gothenburg, the second largest in the country: half the municipal employees in the senior healthcare sector began working 30 hours a week instead of 40, all while keeping the same salaries. The city council wanted to compare the productivity of both groups and, of course, their wellbeing. The experience seems to have been a success: the health facility found both its services and the welfare of its employees improved.
The idea was nothing new for the city, since the Toyota plant in Gothenburg already had its employees working two 6-hour shifts, with switches at noon, for almost 15 years. According to management, the factory’s profits increased by 25% since the policy had been implemented in 2002.
A viable measure?
Entrepreneur and speaker Isabelle Boyer does not believe that such a strategy could work in Quebec because companies are not competitive enough. The president of InnovAction Groupe Conseil notes that keeping the same salary while going from an 8-hour day to a 6-hour one is equivalent to an increase of one-third of the salary. “We had strikes for a 3% increase per year, we certainly will not give 33%! The company will not be gaining 33% in revenues, without including fees and taxes.”
The cost of the experience has also been denounced by the Swedish Liberal Party in Gothenburg, the policy costing it about 850 000 Euros per year, or about 1.2 million Canadian dollars. On the other hand, the Swedish Left Party says the welfare of employees should be taken into account and that “not everything is a question of money,” according to the party’s representative, Daniel Bermar.
This past spring, the Director General of the Order of Certified Human Resources Advisors, Manon Poirier, said that the idea was bold enough and reflected on the tendency of companies to try to attract and retain good employees.
Solutions to explore
While maintaining equal pay is not within the reach of all businesses, reducing the number of hours worked per week would be attractive for many workers. “In this case, it may be applicable. I know many people who would earn less to spend more time with their children,” states Boyer.
The entrepreneur believes that this could be possible, for example, in seasonal businesses and administrative jobs that do not necessarily require 40 hours of work: a reduction in hours or distributing tasks among employees is an interesting avenue to explore. “If it suits the employer and employee, there is a way to make things interesting, but you have to compromise,” she says.