Time for a reduced working week?
Sir, – I refer to Fiona Reddan’s overview of the reduced working week (“Earn more than you think while working less”, Opinion & Analysis, September 10th). This is an idea that has come of age. It deserves serious consideration if we are to take seriously the link between work/life balance, mental health and living a fulfilled life.
Unfortunately it seems that all of the discourse on this concept to date has focused on a trade off of hours worked and take-home pay. A counterpoint would be that a reduced working week does not necessarily impact productivity and therefore should not impact upon take-home pay. A reduced working week should be more about balancing the scales and asking that employers give something meaningful back for once. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – While Fiona Reddan makes an excellent point about how cutting one’s working hours makes surprisingly little difference to take-home pay, it should be noted it often significantly increases the burden on colleagues.
Working with a large team of doctors, I have noticed in recent years a growing enthusiasm for working less than full time. This is usually done for very good reasons, I should add.
Practically speaking, an experienced doctor earning, say, €85,000 will see almost €32,000 deducted at source. If they work half time, the deduction is just over €10,000, however. It is generally very difficult to fill the half-time vacancy this creates, though. The workload meanwhile does not change, and so colleagues can end up even busier than before. Notably too, those choosing half-time schedules are much less likely to be tasked with other duties such as teaching and administration since they are, in essence, “out of sight, and out of mind”. Their workload thus falls by more than half, while their salary deductions fall by over two-thirds. This, clearly, is a win-win for the individual.
In economic terms, one cannot ask nor expect people to do anything other than what is in their interest. However, many of the partial vacancies this rational strategy generates are impossible to fill. The real price may thus be paid by colleagues, customers, clients or patients, depending on the job. Perhaps an innovative solution to this should be sought, one which might incentivise colleagues to work the other hours, but at less punitive tax rates. – Yours, etc,