Enjoy your day off: Greece has introduced a six-day work week

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jul8,2024
A six-day working week will be the new norm for Greeks in select industries the government has allowed to impose extended hours.
Under legislation that came into effect in Greece last Monday, it’s up to employers to choose whether to extend the work week to six days — from 40 hours to the European Union limit of 48.
Unions have condemned the change, saying it’s an assault on worker’s rights.

The scheme also flips the trend among European countries, who have been winding down the working week — with highly productive results.

How does a six-day week work?

Businesses in certain industries can ask employees to report for duty an extra two hours per day, or work an additional eight-hour shift.
Workers will get a 40 per cent penalty for the additional shift, or 115 per cent if they work Sunday.

The employee cannot work more than eight hours during the additional shift.

A spokesperson for Greece’s ministry of labour and social security told the BBC the measure is optional, not mandatory.

“It is important to note that this measure does not affect in any way the established five-day working week mandated by law,” the spokesperson said, noting it was aimed at addressing “urgent operational demands”.

People walk through a terrace cafe where a waitress carries a tray.

The six-day week won’t apply to food service and tourism, which already have provisions for extended hours. Source: NurPhoto / Getty Images/AAP

The new scheme applies to businesses that operate 24 hours a day, for more than five days a week, and use rotating shifts.

It also includes parts of the industrial and manufacturing sector, but excludes tourism and hospitality.

Wider labour reform

The six-day work week is one of a range of labour reforms introduced by centre-right prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who says it will help fight the pressures of a skilled worker shortage and a shrinking population.

Greece has one of the highest emigration rates in the EU. Over 500,000 citizens have left the country since the 2007-09 global recession that left Greece’s economy crippled, struggling with a sovereign debt crisis and unemployment levels above 25 per cent.

Mitsotakis — who has overseen GDP growth above the eurozone average — has described the six-day work scheme policy as “growth oriented” and “worker friendly”.
The government argues it will also help tackle issues like undeclared work and unpaid overtime.
“It brings Greece in line with the rest of Europe”, Mitsotakis said last year, before the legislation was passed.

Greeks already work the longest hours in Europe, according to European Commission data, but are among the lowest paid.

This year the government raised the minimum monthly wage to 830 euros ($1,335) and says it will reach 950 euros ($1,528) by the end of its term in 2027.

It also promised to increase the average wage by more than 25 per cent to 1,500 euros ($2,413) in that time.

Backlash from workers

The labour reforms have been met with fierce backlash by unions who say they dismantle fundamental worker rights and introduce “barbaric” conditions.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Athens last September before the reform package was introduced to parliament.

A man shouts into a megaphone at a protest.

The introduction of a labour reform package in September 2023 met fierce opposition in Greece. Credit: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

The bill increased the maximum daily working time to 13 hours, and allowed employers to sack workers for up to a year without warning or remuneration.

It also introduced fines and a six-month jail term for people who prevent employees from working during a strike.

Greece’s Communist Party — KKE — called the bill “monstrous”, while left-wing Syriza said the government had a “secret agenda” targeting workers.

Greece bucks the trend

When it comes to the six-day week, other European countries have been experimenting in the opposite direction — reducing the working week to four days.
In 2022, that condenses the same working hours into fewer days.

A trial in Iceland in 2021 that involved employees working fewer hours for the same pay was so successful it led to more than 85 per cent of the workforce negotiating shorter hours.

Similar trials have run in the United Kingdom and Sweden, and are under way in Germany, Spain and Portugal.
Outside Europe the idea is gaining traction with trials run in Japan, New Zealand —

According to the World Economic Forum, the benefits of a four-day week include happier workers, less pollution from commuting and a boost in productivity.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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