A new bill being debated in the California Assembly could make the state the first to implement a four-day workweek for companies with 500 employees or more.
Under the proposed legislation, employers in the state would be forced to pay overtime at a rate of at least 1 1/2 times an employee’s regular pay rate for any additional work beyond 32 hours per week, rather than the standard 40 hours. Additionally, employers covered by the bill would be barred from cutting an employee’s pay rate because of the shortened workweek.
Assembly member Christina Garcia, a co-author of the bill, said the proposal would help address the mass exodus of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had a five-day workweek since the Industrial Revolution,” Garcia told the Los Angeles Times on Friday. “But we’ve had a lot of progress in society, and we’ve had a lot of advancements. I think the pandemic right now allows us the opportunity to rethink things, to reimagine things.”
A record of more than 4.5 million people in the United States quit their jobs in November, according to the Associated Press. Most sought different positions offering higher wages.
The California bill has been met with skepticism. The state’s Chamber of Commerce included the law on its 2022 Job Killer List alongside 14 other bills, which they claim will have a detrimental effect on the state’s economy.
The increased overtime requirement in the new legislation “significantly increases labor costs by imposing an overtime pay requirement after 32 hours and other requirements that are impossible to comply with, exposing employers to litigation under the Private Attorneys General Act,” the group explains on its website.
This isn’t the first time lawmakers have floated the idea of a four-day workweek.
Last July, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) introduced the 32-Hour Workweek Act in Congress, telling The New York Times that Americans don’t “want to return to the same old normal” following the pandemic.
In Texas, the Jasper Independent School District will implement a four-day week in the 2022-2023 school year in response to burnout and staff shortages, according to ABC News.
The idea has caught on outside of the United States as well. In May 2020, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested a shortened workweek to support workers and promote travel within the country as borders were shut, per The Guardian. And a report published in July 2021 showed four-day workweek trials in Iceland had tremendous success.
“Worker well-being dramatically increased across a range of indicators, from perceived stress and burnout to health and work-life balance,” the report read.