Recently, the Greek Government announced that it will be introducing a six-day workweek, translating to 48 hours a week.

This came as a shock to many European countries, which are scrambling to see the feasibility of squeezing 40 hours into a four-day workweek.

Greece’s new regulation, coming into force on Monday 1st July, will not be forcing every employee’s hand to work those hours, and the ordinary 40-hour workweek still stands.

However, certain industries like retail, agriculture, manufacturing and businesses providing 24-hour services can ask their employees to work the additional day.

Employees will have the flexibility of either working two more hours a day or working an additional eight-hour day. Additionally, they will also be able to have a part-time job of five hours a day, along with their full-time job.

Overall, workers will be paid 40 per cent more for the extra hours.

Government’s reasoning behind the new regulation is to simplify administration, reduce probation periods to six months and shine a light on overtime.

Furthermore, the regulation aims to fill the gap in the labour market and combat undeclared work while offering incentives such as free employee training to help upskill to the market demands. Overall, it aims to address market challenges such as low wages, high levels of unemployment and a declining population.

Despite improvements in its economic situation, marking an expected GDP growth of 2.2 per cent in 2023, the population is expected to continue to shrink as many educated and young Greeks choose to emigrate for better opportunities.  

Does the new regulation fall within European standards?

The European Union has uniform standards for working hours that are applicable across all member states. According to EU standards, the maximum an employee can work in a week is 48 hours, with a paid annual leave of at least four weeks along with rest periods and other separate regulations on night and shift work.

Prior to this regulation being introduced, Greek employees already worked more hours than the EU average.

Based on the calculations of the average hours of work per year, divided by the average number of people in employment per year, in 2022 Greeks had an average of 1,886 working hours. At the time, Malta had 1,882 hours. Both numbers were significantly higher than the EU average of 1,571.

On the other hand, during the same year, the average European workweek stood at 37.5 hours.In both Greece and Malta’s cases, the hours were higher at 41 and 39.2 hours, respectively.

Irrespective of the hours worked during the week, many trade unions across Europe have been actively encouraging Governments to adopt a four-day workweek.

In February 2022, Belgium became the first country to introduce a four-day workweek, without loss of pay, for those interested. In this case, the hours remained the same but were distributed over four days.

During the same month, around 45 companies in Germany tested the four-day workweek, commencing a six-month trial to see the effectiveness. Many employees were in favour of a shorter workweek with 71 per cent of employees stating that they would like to have it as an option.

Portugal is also testing the waters by using the 100:80:100 mode, meaning 100 per cent pay for 80 per cent of the time in exchange for 100 per cent productivity.

Already tested six-month trials, such as those conducted in the UK, have proved to be “extremely successful.”

On the other hand, Sweden’s attempt at a four-day workweek with full pay had mixed reactions.

Having employees work for six hours instead of eight while retaining the same pay was deemed too expensive to implement on a large scale. However, some medical staff and other notable companies, such as Toyota, chose to keep the reduced hours anyway.

The possibility of perpetuating abuse and decreasing morale

Many workers in Greece protested over the new regulation because, despite the additional change not being mandatory, many fear it may become the norm.

Others were fearful of increased safety risks for staff in industrial sectors.

Despite raising a red flag in Europe, the six-day workweek is not such an unpopular idea in the United States. A ResumeBuilder survey found that across 800 companies, one in 10 business executives plan to establish a six-day workweek in 2025.

Nonetheless, Andy Nisevic, a training and coaching Director noted that a six-day workweek might increase productivity in the short term; however, a decrease in staff morale, motivation and retention, will be unsustainable for businesses.

Others commented that the six-day workweek reinforces a system where individuals are regarded merely as instruments for generating wealth, rather than humans with needs and aspirations that go beyond work.

Overall, studies show that a six-day workweek might be better in terms of finances but can impose long-term health risks. Studies indicate that working long hours can increase the risk of depression, heart attack, and heart disease.

This might be because of the lack of time for workers to take part in good and healthy habits such as not doing exercise, resting, or having less time to enjoy hobbies.

Another study conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that employees who worked 55 hours per week had worse vocabulary and reasoning when compared to those working 40 hours. Participants were tested to evaluate intelligence, verbal recall and vocabulary.


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