News: Why Greece has enforced a six-day work week

Economy & Policy

Why Greece has enforced a six-day work week

While much of the working world is calling for a four-day work week, Greece is running counter to the trend by introducing six days of work.
Why Greece has enforced a six-day work week

ATHENS – To bolster productivity and assure workers are paid for overtime hours, the pro-business government of Greece has enforced a new legislation extending the work week to six days. Workers’ unions, however, are pushing back.

Greece is the first country in the EU to ride against the global trend of the four-day work week, which has seen success in countries such as the UK, Germany, and Belgium. Unlike most European countries oriented towards flexible work, Greece is instead counting on longer work periods to enhance productivity.

More work, more pay

The six-day work week regulation was implemented on 1 July by the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The move aims to curb the negative impact of Greece’s skilled worker shortage and shrinking population. However, only private businesses offering 24/7 support, as well as industrial and manufacturing companies, will be covered by the new rule.

“The six-day work week is not universally applicable but is restricted to certain business sectors,” said Athens-based lawyer Emmanouil Savoidakis, who specialises in labour law at Politis & Partners.

Workers under the scheme will be compensated with 40% more pay on top of their wages. The addition of a work day can be undertaken either as two hours of service added to their shift or as a full eight-hour work day for a total of 48 hours per week.

Prior to the regulation, the average work week in Greece was already at 39.8 hours, the highest in the region.

Why the six-day work week in Greece?

Greece was once the epicentre of a debt crisis that started in 2009. Economic hardship has since prompted some 500,000 skilled talent to find their fortunes abroad. This, in effect, has led to a decline in the country’s labour force, particularly in construction, agriculture and tourism.

The centre-right government believes introducing the additional work day will close the gap in productivity.

The six-day work week arrangement also seeks to compensate employees who are already being pressured by their bosses to render unpaid overtime work – a practice prevalent in Greece’s work culture. In theory, the policy will prevent employers from assigning undeclared work.

Employees taking on a six-day work week will also be entitled to certain benefits, such as enrollment in upskilling programmes.

Prime Minister Mitsotakis believes the crux of the policy is “deeply growth-oriented”.

Data from the European Commission shows hourly work productivity in Greece is 40% lower than the average in the EU. Findings suggest the skilled worker shortage, lack of technology investments, and the practice of red tape stifles both productivity, creativity and innovation in the country.

Criticism of Greece’s six-day work week

Not everybody is on board with the new policy, with protesters already hitting the streets to oppose it.

“In reality this has been passed by a government ideologically committed to generating ever bigger profits for capital,” said union officer Akis Sotiropoulos, as quoted by The Guardian.

Better productivity comes with better work conditions, a better quality of life [for employees] and that, we now know, is about less hours not more.”

The premise behind the six-day work week runs counter to the fact that most four-day work week programmes have successfully increased productivity.

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Topics: Economy & Policy, Performance Management, #Productivity, #Flexibility

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