California’s 4-Day Work Week Bill: What Happened To It?

California’s 4-Day Work Week Bill: What Happened To It?

All the changes around how and where we work have led to some interesting developments around when we work. Many companies have begun experimenting with the four-day work week, which has, in many cases, allowed employees to strike a better work-life balance.

The concept is gaining traction. Entire countries have tested it out.

Enter California.

The state recently gained some buzz by introducing a 32-hour work week bill. Many of us kept an eye on it. Would it move through the legislature and start changing the way Californians operate? It did not; the bill is currently stalled, for want of a better word, though it may get picked up again in 2023.

Here’s what happened to the potential California 4-day work week.

California’s 4-Day Work Week Bill: What To Know

What is the California 4-day work week bill?

AB 2932 was introduced by Assembly members Evan Low and Cristina Garcia early in 2022’s legislative session. If passed, it would amend Section 510 of the state’s labor code, reducing the standard 40-hour work week to 32 hours…for some workers.

This bill, like many other workplace-related changes we’ve seen, largely came out of shifts brought about by the pandemic. Many companies were forced to make dramatic adjustments to let their employees work safely, which in turn led to more independence and autonomy in workers.

Not surprisingly, when some businesses started pushing a return to the traditional 40-hour, in-office workspace, people pushed back.

“[Employees] are sending a clear message they want a better work-life balance,” Garcia said of the bill, referencing the millions of workers who have left their jobs to find work that paid better, or allowed more flexibility.

In theory, legislators hoped this would lead to fewer working hours. By making overtime a more expensive proposition for employers, they may start requiring less of it. Best-case scenario, employees work less; worst-case scenario, they are paid more for the work they do. And indeed, many companies that have made the switch to the four-day work week notice that their employees can in fact get everything done in less time.

Will AB 2932 impact everyone?

No. The bill only applies to California businesses with more than 500 employees — about 20% of the state’s workforce. Thirty-two hours would be considered a full work week for these employees. The bill does not permit companies to cut down wages. Instead, it requires employees be paid 1.5 times their wage if asked to work more than 32 hours in a week.

Companies that employ fewer than 500 can continue to operate as normal and pay overtime after their personnel work 40 hours. In addition, unionized workers would not see any changes.

The bill prompted an outcry from business owners, economists, and others. Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University, anticipated many affected jobs and companies moving out of California and to Oregon or Nevada. Also against the bill was the California Chamber of Commerce, going so far as to call it a “job killer.

That’s not to say everyone is fighting it. Some prominent employers discussed it favorably, including Aziz Hasan, CEO of Kickstarter. “If our time and attention is focused as best as it can be in those four days,” he asks, “can we have a more potent impact on the things that we care about from a professional standpoint?”

Where’s my 4-day work week?!

California workers will have to wait a little longer for legislation. The bill in its current form didn’t meet committee deadlines for consideration; lawmakers wanted more time to study the bill and its potential impact on workers, businesses, and the state before voting on it. For now, the California 32-hour work week is paused, though Mr. Low maintains the legislature will revisit it in 2023.

In the meantime, the bill and ongoing changes have spurred more conversation around the work-life balance and how to attain it (or something close to it). California’s bill, like the efforts of Iceland, Scotland, and other countries, introduces the additional question of whether a shorter week is something companies should be trusted to deploy on their own or something that should be legislated from the top down.

We’ll keep a close eye on this legislation and other bills like it, should they surface.

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