Greece’s 6-day workweek bucks global trend of shorter workweek

MORE WORK … Greece will introduce a six-day workweek for select sectors, marking asignificant departure from the growing global movement towards a four-day workweek. Photo: Pexels

On 1 July 2024, Greece will introduce a six-day workweek for select sectors, marking a significant departure from the growing global movement towards a four-day workweek.

This legislative change, affecting private sector workers, has sparked criticism from trade unions and the opposition, who argue it could lead to “barbaric” working conditions.

The newly approved labour law allows for a 48-hour workweek, specifically targeting industrial, manufacturing, and 24/7 service sectors. Workers in food service and tourism are exempt from this extension.

Under the new regulations, employees working the additional hours will receive 40% extra pay and those working on holidays will receive 115% of their normal salary. Employers must notify employees of their schedules at least 24 hours in advance and no additional overtime beyond the mandated hours is permitted.

Critically, the law allows for a probationary period of up to six months for new workers, during which they can be dismissed without compensation or notice unless otherwise agreed.

Additionally, employers who obstruct workers from participating in strikes will face fines.

Trade unions and opposition parties have vehemently opposed the new law. Public sector workers, including teachers, doctors and transportation workers, staged walkouts in protest, labelling the law an affront to workers’ rights.

Critics argue that the law dilutes the standard eight-hour workday and the five-day workweek, potentially normalising the six-day workweek.

“The new draft law imposes 13 hours of work per day and 78 hours of work per week,” stated the Merchant Marine Union.

“It abolishes breaks at work and weekends.”

Opponents fear that the lack of robust labour inspections will make extended work hours a common practice without adequate compensation.

Comparatively, South Africa’s Basic Conditions of Employment Act permits a maximum of 45 hours of regular work per week, or nine hours per day for a five-day workweek.

Overtime is regulated, requiring additional pay, and employees must receive adequate rest periods. This framework contrasts sharply with Greece’s new law, which critics argue erodes these fundamental protections.

Greece’s move comes at a time when many countries are exploring the benefits of a four-day workweek. Research indicates that shorter workweeks can lead to reduced stress, improved work-life balance and higher productivity.

Studies in other EU countries like Iceland, Ireland and Spain have shown promising results, with employees reporting better health and well-being.

Ireland’s recent pilot programme involving 17 companies demonstrated decreased employee stress and burnout, alongside maintained productivity levels. The global shift towards shorter workweeks aims to enhance employee satisfaction and efficiency, starkly contrasting Greece’s approach. – IOL

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