Mark Adair

Research reveals regional attitudes towards to the four day work week

New research by NatWest Rapid Cash reveals the employment challenges facing SMEs across the UK’s regions, and how current and future job market trends are creating new opportunities for employers and employees.

According to the research, 34 per cent of UK SMEs are struggling with the costs of staffing. Businesses in Northern Ireland are struggling the most with 57 per cent facing staffing costs and late payments. Staffing costs are also heavily affecting businesses in the North East (50 per cent), North West (44 per cent), and South West (41 per cent).

This has led to more vacancies across the job market, with the shortage of candidates particularly affecting the Healthcare, IT and Technology sectors. Rising operational costs and a squeeze on cash flow mean that offering higher wages cannot be the sole way for companies to fill their vacancies. Employers and recruiters need to find new ways to attract (and retain) the best candidates.

Health and wellbeing benefits have always been valued by employees. But the post-pandemic shift towards hybrid working has increased the focus on work that fits around people’s lives, not the other way around.

On Monday 6 June, more than 3,300 workers at 70 UK companies started working a four-day week with no loss of pay. The trial is based around a 100:80:100 model (100% of pay for 80 per cent of the time, in exchange for a commitment to maintain 100 per cent productivity).

82 per cent of employees in Wales, 76 per cent in Yorkshire and Humber, 75 per cent in the South East and 76 per cent in the East of England would not opt for a four-day working week if it meant taking a pay cut.

75 per cent of employers in the North West, and 76 per cent in the South East are financially and operationally prepared to offer a four-day working week to employees. However, 66 per cent of employers surveyed in Yorkshire and Humber, and 100 per cent in Northern Ireland are financially and operationally unprepared to do so.

Natalie Kerr, Chief Commercial Director at NatWest Rapid Cash says, “Recruiters clearly see the four-day working week and personal wellbeing gaining popularity among employees. But many businesses are reluctant to provide a better work/life balance due to increased operational costs.

“At NatWest Rapid Cash, we believe the most effective way for SME employers, and recruiters, to meet staffing challenges is to strengthen their working capital. Cashflow is key when it comes not only to staffing but also to having the flexibility to adopt new models of working, and to make the most of growth opportunities.

“NatWest Rapid Cash has been designed for just this, helping businesses improve their cashflow by unlocking capital in unpaid invoices.”

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