Activists want government to subsidize workers’ payments (Photo: Kirsty O’Connor / PA)

A left-wing think tank has asked the government to introduce four-day weeks in the industries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The group of independent activists Autonomy released a report today requesting state funding for a regime that would allow companies to cut staff hours but keep people full-fledged.

In an intervention that would probably cost billions of pounds, companies could reduce staff hours to 80%, but keep them with 100% pay because the government would finance the difference.

Autonomy states that, if applied only to the art and entertainment sector, it would cost £ 3.8 billion in the first year. This would lead to £ 22 billion if retail, food and housing industries were also included.

The idea gained some traction in Parliament. Former Labor leadership contender Clive Lewis said:[This] it is a fantastic idea as it would keep jobs and create more desirable working hours in our job market.

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“Post Covid-19, the four-day week is gaining popularity worldwide and I sincerely hope that the Treasury agrees to explore these proposals when I meet them next week.”

A four-day working week was a Labor Party policy in the last election, but new shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds has not yet promised her support for the idea.

Labor Chancellor Anneliese Dodds is under pressure to support the plan (Photo: PA)

The party is under pressure from the unions to support the plan to avoid job losses. Howard Beckett, Assistant Secretary General of Unite, said: “This campaign should be supported unequivocally by Labor.”

Under the think tank scheme, state subsidies would have been liquidated in five years to zero.

At this point the concept of a four-day week would be incorporated and become the “new normal”, say the researchers.

Proponents of the idea claim that if more people worked four weeks a day, it would create more jobs and boost tourism because workers would have more time to go out and spend.

Autonomy points to earlier examples in history where working hours have been reduced as a way to stimulate the economy during difficult times, even during the 1980s in Britain.

Research director Will Stronge said: ‘Shorter working hours have been used throughout history as a way of responding to economic crises as it allows you to share work more fairly across the economy.

“Instead of supporting an already failed economy, the government could act to save jobs and create more desirable job models for the future.”

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