The think tank Autonomy found that if workers remained on full pay, the move would help ease an expected rise in unemployment amid the coronavirus crisis.
Its report said that it would be possible to switch to a 32-hour week with no major loss in wages.
The policy, the report said, is ‘affordable’ and ‘achievable’, calculating that a 32-hour week could cost ‘around £9 billion, but the true figure could be much lower at around £5.4 billion.’
That is only 6% of the public sector employment salary bill and ‘just over 1% of the total government spending budget’, Autonomy said.
The predicted move would have the biggest impact in the North of England and Midlands, notably in so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats won from Labour by the Conservatives in December’s general election, according to the study.
The report explained: ‘Red Wall areas including Barnsley, Bradford and Doncaster, where around 20% of overall employment exists in the public sector, would stand to benefit much more than the South East where public sector employment takes up a relatively lower proportion of employment.’
The organisation’s Will Stronge added: ‘The time has come for a four-day working week and the public sector should act as the pioneer for it, both as employer and as procurer of services.
‘To help tackle the unemployment crisis we are facing this winter, a four-day week is the best option for sharing work more equally across the economy and creating much needed new jobs.
‘The four-day week makes so much sense as it would boost productivity, create new jobs and make us all much happier and healthier.’
The think tank has said that the move could also have health benefits.
The study explained: ‘More than two-thirds of UK workers are stressed or overworked in their jobs and according to the Health and Safety Executive, one in four of all sick days lost are the direct result of overwork.’