- Maryland lawmakers introduced a bill that would incentivize employers to adopt a four-day work week.
- Employers who participate will receive a tax credit, and employee pay will remain the same.
- Delegate Vaughn Stewart, a sponsor of the bill, said it will increase work morale and productivity.
The state of Maryland is pushing for a shorter work week.
Earlier this month, Maryland lawmakers introduced a bill that will “promote, incentivize, and support the experimentation and study of the use of a 4-day workweek,” according to the proposed bill.
Under the Four-Day Workweek Act of 2023, employers would cut their employees’ weekly work hours from 40 hours to 32 hours without reducing their pay or benefits. In return, employers would receive a tax credit. The Maryland Department of Labor would give out up to $750,000 in tax credits every year.
The bill would apply to public and private employers with at least 30 employees from all industries. Employers that choose to participate in the program would do so for up two years until it ends in 2028.
The new bill comes as stressed-out employees grapple with how to maintain a healthy work-life balance amid changing workplace norms.
Maryland delegate Vaughn Stewart, the primary sponsor of the bill, told Insider that the research on the benefits of a four-day work week looks promising.
Stewart said that the program was inspired by a 2022 experiment conducted by nonprofit 4 Day Week Global. As part of the experiment, nearly 1,000 employees at 33 different companies worked four-day weeks for six months. Employees that participated noticed an increase in productivity and a decrease in burnout, whereas employers saw an 8% spike in overall revenue during that time frame.
“I really think we’re on the verge of a win-win scenario here,” Stewart told Insider. “We can provide a higher quality of life, more free time for workers in Maryland, while at the same time not hurting the bottom line of businesses and maybe even increasing their profitability.”
Employers and employees are beginning to see the benefits of a shorter work week
American workers are expressing interest in a shorter work week. A 2022 Qualtrics study found that 92% of 1,021 full-time US employees surveyed were in favor of their employers cutting a work day.
And the arrangement is beginning to become more common: One hundred companies in the United Kingdom have committed to issuing permanent four-day work weeks for employees without cutting pay, The Guardian reported.
Companies outside of the UK that have experimented with a shorter work week also said that they have seen their profits and productivity jump as a result.
Kickstarter, Unilever, Shopify, and even Shake Shack have experimented with 32-hour work weeks.
Even though Stewart has seen an “explosion of interest” in the bill from Maryland voters and his colleagues, he anticipates some challenges in getting the bill passed, including how the government will fund the tax credit incentives.
“This bill is neither a slam dunk, nor is it dead on arrival,” Stewart said. “I am cautiously optimistic about the bill’s prospects, but we are gonna have to get a decent chunk of money.”
While Stewart, a Democrat, thinks that his bill will be “popular across the economic spectrum,” he said that there may be disagreement along party lines which could potentially delay the bill from being passed.
“I’m sure that Democrats are gonna be more likely to support it than Republicans,” he said.
The state of Maryland plans to hold hearings on the bill in February. If it’s passed, the program will begin on July 1.
More states may adopt similar policies in the future
Maryland isn’t the only government entity looking to cut work hours. California and national law makers have introduced similar bills to shorten the work week, though they have stalled and failed, respectively.
But given the “extremely persuasive” findings from the 4 Day Week Global study, Stewart believes that its only a matter of time before other states try to adopt measures to shorten the work week.
“I think that you’re going to see more and more states, including New York, put these types of bills in because I really think this is the way of the future,” he said. “I think the question is not if, but when America is going to move to a shorter work week.”