(NEXSTAR) – A bill working its way through the Maryland Legislature would incentivize companies to switch to a four-day workweek, allowing employees to work 32 hours instead of 40 without seeing any pay cut or loss of benefits.
The bill would entice public and private employers to switch over to a four-day week by offering a state tax credit when they participate in a pilot program.
The proposed legislation comes after a recent study by nonprofit 4 Day Week Global and Boston College, which took 33 companies through a six-month pilot program of a four-day week. The trial instructed “employees to work 80% of their regularly scheduled hours in return for 100% of their pay and a pledge to deliver 100% of their standard output.”
After the study concluded, none of the participating companies said they planned to switch back.
Less surprising, employees overwhelmingly approved of the change. About 97% said they wanted to continue working a four-day week.
“I really think that this idea, while it may sound radical or utopian, is something that offers a real win-win possibility for both employers and employees,” said Maryland State Delegate Vaughn Stewart, the bill’s sponsor, in an interview with NewsNation.
Stewart acknowledges more studies are needed but said the Maryland legislation could help achieve that. It would create a five-year pilot program, offering tax credits to companies that switch to a four-day workweek in exchange for data on how successful (or unsuccessful) the reduced workweek was.
The bill has a long way to go before becoming law. It has been referred to a committee in the State House but would need approval from that chamber, the State Senate, and the governor to go into effect. If it does become law by the end of this legislative session, it would take effect on July 1.
“I don’t think that Marylanders should be lining up and thinking that this is going to happen overnight,” Stewart said, “but I do think the time has come for this conversation, and I think the time has come for us to start looking at the future and envisioning a future with more free time.”
The bill’s hearing is set for February, Stewart said.
Maryland’s legislators aren’t the only ones weighing the merits of a reduced workweek. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) introduced the “Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act” in Congress last month. The bill takes a different approach to incentivize shorter workweeks by requiring employers to pay overtime anytime someone works more than 32 hours per week.