You might have seen this recently being discussed on the interwebs, but the California legislature introduced a bill that would shorten the workweek from 40 hours per week to 32 hours per week! From the WSJ:
“A bill moving through the Legislature would shorten California’s normal workweek to 32 hours from 40 for companies with more than 500 employees. Workers who put in more than 32 hours in a week would have to be paid time-and-a-half. And get this: Employers would be prohibited from reducing workers’ current pay rate, so they would be paid the same for working 20% less.”
“Democrats say a shorter workweek will help businesses retain burned-out workers and increase productivity and profits. “There has been no correlation between working more hours and better productivity,” Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia says.”
Do California Legislators Understand How Stuff Gets Built?
So, it’s not actually true that there isn’t a correlation between, hours, productivity, and profits. There might not be a massively strong correlation, but there is one! If you are building cars in an assembly plant, you can definitely build more cars in 40 hours than 32 hours, given all things are equal with the run rate of the line, supplies, etc. You can just turn the line on faster for 32 hours and make up the difference. It doesn’t work like that!
The issue is when we are talking about mostly white-collar work. Can an office worker get their week’s worth of work done in 32 hours vs. 40 hours if they focused and stay on task? Quite possibly, we see folks do this for a short period of time often. I live in Michigan and many Michigan employers will give their employees Friday off from June through August because of the nice weather or half-day Fridays, and workers just put in extra effort to make up for the lost time and productivity. But, this is done for a certain period, not on an ongoing basis.
Should the USA have a 32-hour workweek?
First, in a free democratic, capitalist society, which is what America is, I’m not in favor of the government dictating what a private business can do around working hours. We have worker protections in place already which I believe are fair and just, and economic market dynamics also force employers to be competitive.
If the government would like to make public employment a 32-hour workweek, well that is something they can vote on, and as citizens, we can decide if we want those politicians in office. I don’t think anyone in an HR role would be surprised this comes out of California. Historically, California is the biggest pain in the neck for HR pros.
Second, I like to believe that there is still an American Dream. This can be debated, but with millions of immigrants still trying to get into the U.S., I think it’s alive and well for the vast majority of individuals. Part of that dream is being able to build a business and make it successful. That takes work, more than 32 hours a week type of work. I get this potential law is for businesses over 500, but it still makes no sense for a fast-growing business.
In today’s world, workers have choices, and businesses have choices. If a business feels it is in their best competitive advantage to offer a 32-hour workweek at full salary, they can do that. They shouldn’t be forced to do this, let simple economic theory play itself out.
Okay, HR Pros, hit me in the comments – what do you think? Should California/America employers over 500 be forced to offer a 32-hour workweek at a full salary?