4 Day Work Week in California: How would it work?
Is California ready for a 4-day work week? Discover insights, analysis, and potential implications of this revolutionary idea on our latest blog.
6 min read
10 Aug, 2023
The 4 day work week is growing in popularity in a post pandemic world.
Several studies have touted the 4-day work week as the panacea for job stress, job dissatisfaction, and high labor turnover. And influential people are now talking about a possible 4-day work week in California, through a bill to legalize it.
Known as the Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act, the bill seeks to reduce the 40-hour, 5-day workweek to a 32-hour, 4-day work schedule.
Let's dig into it...
4 Day Work Week in California
Below are the plans of one Congressman in California, U.S., regarding the 4 day work week:
“[My bill] modifies or amends the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets overtime pay and the workweek,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “And, right now, you and I work for a certain pay level. [With the new law], we can be entitled to overtime pay after we work 32 hours.”
As California’s 39th District representative, Takano introduced the bill in 2021. However, it hit a brick wall as it didn’t have many takers. So what would a 4 day week in California mean?
- Changing or modifying the current Fair Labor Standards Act
- Allowing employees to work for 32 hours over a 4 day work week period
- Offering workers overtime pay if they exceed 32 hours
What’s the Motivation for a 4-Day Work Week in California?
Besides the COVID-19 pandemic and the surge of remote work, some studies show the massive benefits of a four-day week. Let’s cite three examples.
- A study involved 2,900 employees at 61 companies in the U.K. who worked for an average of 34 hours over four days from June until December 2022, with their existing salary unchanged.
- The Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand company, conducted its study on the 4-day work week’s effectiveness.
- Stanford University examined the relationship between the 4-day workweek and productivity.
All these studies have common findings, which are as follows:
- Improved productivity, team culture, morale, and revenue
- Enhanced work/life balance and company loyalty
- Decreased stress levels
- Better employment engagement
However, NBCSandiego.com reports that not everyone agrees with the 4 day work week.
“The four-day work week, all it does is it compresses the work down, and if you’re going to legislate this in, you're just giving that to everyone; no one has earned it,” said Stephan Aarstol, founder of Tower Paddleboards in Mission Beach.
In addition, Aarstol’s approach to a shorter workweek was different, as he maintained the standard 5-day workweek. He decreased working hours to 5 daily while offering his employees the same salary.
“That first year, we grew another 50%,” said Aarstol. “And so after the three months, we said, we're just going to do this full time. So we did it full-time for about two years, and it seemed like everything was working fine for, you know, about a year and three-quarters of that. And then, within 90 days, I had a team of nine at the time, I lost four people within 90 days.”
As a result, the four-day workweek has a few disadvantages. Some include:
- Not ideal for some companies, as per the BBC report
- Requires changes in technology, workplace culture, and support
- Limits customer satisfaction (Utah research)
- Viewing it as compressed hours can affect employees' engagement and satisfaction (a 4 day work week is the normal eight hours per day (8) but across four days)
Would you like a 4 day work week?
Working Hours in California
Let’s explore how California labor law defines work hours and days.
Workday or day: Any consecutive 24-hour period beginning at the same time each calendar day.
Workweek or week: Any seven consecutive days, starting with the same calendar day each week. Also, a workweek must be a fixed and regularly recurring period of:
- 168 hours, or
- seven consecutive 24-hour periods
There’s also an option for employees to choose an alternative work schedule (AWS) which refers to flexible work and compressed work schedules. Under AWS, an employee can’t work longer than ten hours per day if they’re on a 40-hour workweek without receiving overtime pay.
Also, non-exempt workers:
- Must have rest breaks if they work for three and a half hours or more per day
Overtime in California
General overtime provisions for non-exempt employees (18 years and above) in California say that such employees:
- Shall not work for over eight hours in any workday or over 40 hours in any workweek
- Only perform the above if their employer compensates them one and one-half times their pay rate
A day's work is the sum of eight hours of labor. Therefore, employees must receive overtime pay when they work more than eight hours in any workday or over six days in any workweek.
The compensation structure looks like this:
- Employees who work more than eight or more than 12 hours in a workday will receive one and one-half times their regular pay rate.
- If the employee works more than 12 hours on any workday and eight hours on any seventh day of work a week, they will receive double their regular pay.
These guidelines also apply to any minor employees (16 or 17 years of age) for whom the law doesn’t compel them to attend school or prohibit them from working.
However, there are several exemptions from the overtime legislation.
An exemption means that the overtime rules don’t affect a specific group of employees, such as computer software technicians, administrative workers, professional workers, etc. Also, the overtime law has some exceptions. An exception means that a particular class of workers receives overtime pay, like those covered by the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders.
Vacation Policy in California
What about vacation days? Employers in California are not bound by any law to provide their employees with paid or unpaid vacation. But, employers must abide by particular restrictions if they decide to do so through an agreement or policy.
What is a Paid Vacation?
A paid vacation is a form of wage that you earn as you work in California. For instance, if you’re entitled to two weeks (10 workdays) of vacation, you’ll make five days after completing six months of work.
Also, note the following:
- A vacation plan may offer vacation benefits by the day, by the week, or for any period.
- An employer’s vacation policy may not state that your earned vacation may lapse or that your unused vacation time can be forfeited at the end of the year.
- An employer may stipulate a cap on your vacation earnings to prevent you from exceeding a specific number of vacation hours.
Part-Time Working in California
Working part-time in California means working fewer than 40 hours per week. According to the California Labor Review, employers view or understand part-time employment differently.
However, the information does not explain how employers decide whether an employee is part-time.
Still, the maximum number of hours for part-time employment is 40 in California.
The minimum number of hours for part-time workers is anything less than 35 hours a week. But 35 hours a week isn’t a hard-and-fast rule.
Remote Working in California
A whopping 16% of Californians work remotely all the time, while 19% work remotely occasionally and sometimes outside the home (November PPIC Statewide Survey).
Also, the national estimates show that 30% of all work days are now remote.
Remote work is legal in California, and the employment contract defines whether the employment is exempt or non-exempt.
Non-exempt employees must earn overtime pay if they work more than the prescribed regular hours per day or week. Also, remote employees must have health benefits, paid time off, paid lunch, etc.
Looking for a 4-Day Work Week Job?
While finding remote jobs with a four-day workweek schedule in California is possible, the four-day week isn’t yet law. The good news is that you can discover more companies that have a 4-day work week (32hrs) to help you unwind and enhance your well-being.