States eye (and deny) 4-day workweek

A number of states are sitting on legislation that would advance a four-day workweek, while some have already begun the shift. 

The shortened workweek appeals to most Americans. A July survey found that 81% of the full-time U.S. workforce supports a four-day schedule, and 89% would sacrifice something else for that extra day off: working longer hours on "on-days," taking a pay cut or even switching industries. 

But the idea is less likely to win executives' favor. Many, concerned with productivity post-COVID, are putting an end to flexible work schedules by calling workers back to the office five days per week.

More than one year ago, Rep. Mark Takano of California introduced the Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act to Congress with co-sponsors from Washington and Illinois. If passed, the bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act, reducing the standard workweek from 40 hours to 32, and lowering the maximum hours threshold for overtime compensation. 

The bill, HR1332, is still sitting in the House of Representatives' Committee on Education and the Workforce. 

Multiple states have introduced their own legislation to support the four-day workweek, to varying levels of success: 

1. Massachusetts: In May 2023, a bill was introduced into the Massachusetts House with the intention of establishing a four-day workweek pilot program. On Jan. 25, a revised draft of the bill was reported favorably by the House's Labor and Workforce Development Committee, and referred to the Committee on House Ways and Means. 

If passed, employers could choose to apply for the "Massachusetts Smart Work Week Pilot." At selected companies, employees would receive a reduction in work hours without any reduction in pay, status or benefits. For at least two years, participating companies would collect data on the reduced workweek's efficacy. Participating employers — minus those in the public sector — would receive a tax credit. 

2. Maryland: In January 2023, a bill was introduced into Maryland's House that would establish a similar pilot program to the one proposed in Massachusetts: Employers could choose to launch a four-day workweek in exchange for a tax credit. 

The bill was withdrawn by its sponsor, Delegate Vaughn Stewart, in March 2023. Mr. Stewart struggled to gain support for the 32-hour workweek, noting that the traditional 40 hours were deeply ingrained in his generation. He maintained that the move to a shorter workweek is "the future" for Maryland's businesses, according to Maryland Matters

3. Pennsylvania: In August, Pennsylvania Rep. Roni Green shared plans to  introduce a bill requiring the reduction of a standard workweek from 40 hours to 32 for businesses with more than 500 employees, ABC27 reported. These businesses could not reduce employees' pay, per the law; local and midsize employers would be excluded from the rule. 

State Rep. Dave Madsen also touted a bill that would create a three-year pilot program for 70 Pennsylvania businesses. 

4. Missouri: As of Jan. 8, more than 30% of Missouri school districts have opted for a four-day week, according to the Missouri Independent. These schools saw "no statistically significant effect on either academic achievement or building growth," according to a recent study. 

However, Missourians are split on the lean toward a four-day school week. Last year, Sen. Doug Beck of Affton got an amendment approved requiring a local vote to authorize the four-day school week; this year, he is sponsoring a bill that would allow towns with less than 30,000 residents to adopt a shortened school week solely on school board approval, though larger cities would have to get voters' approval. Reps. Aaron McMullen and Robert Sauls of Independence filed similar bills that would also provide incentives for schools that choose a five-day week. 

"My main concern is the economic impact that it has on the city," Mr. McMullen told the newspaper in January. "Essentially, we're giving less services but still charging the same amount of tax."

5. Texas: A 2015 bill allowed Texas school districts to adopt a four-day week as long as they provide 75,600 instructional minutes, according to the Texas Standard. As of last May, 80 districts had made the switch, affecting nearly 75,000 students, NBC affiliate KXAN reported. These schools have reported improved recruitment and retention rates among staff.  

Since August, multiple Texan cities have implemented a four-day workweek for public employees, including Forney, Farmers Branch and Celina

Read more about the four-day workweek and healthcare here.

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