Should I retrench or force more staff to work four days a week?

Dear Aunty B,


First an apology as I was one of the business owners who wrote to you last year saying that my business was fine and the recession was a media beat up, and that if confidence fell further, it was your fault.(I still think that if the media wasn’t such a cesspit of negativity, things wouldn’t be so bad.)

But now my business looks like it will be hit, judging from the fall in business coming through the pipeline. I am still hopefull we’ll be OK, but if things don’t pick up, I am going to be forced to lay some staff off.


My question is this. Should I force more staff to work four days a week or retrench a few staff outright (I have about 60)?

True believer,



Dear True Believer,

Apology accepted although I am wondering how you sceptics will respond once we begin writing that things are turning around. What? You won’t believe us then either?

I do feel for you and hope things will be OK. But if not, I would go for the four day option.

For a start, some employees might welcome it, especially if you give them a tentative timeframe like six months, and present it like this: “How would you like a long weekend every weekend for six months?”

I am sure employees appreciate your attempts not to make people redundant. Also it keeps the skill sets in the organisation and means other employees have to pick up “parts” of a job.

But one thing: You say “force” staff to work four days. Watch that.

Basically employees have to agree to the change in their work conditions. If you attempt to implement a four day week like that, it could constitute a fundamental breach of their employment contract. (Of course you are covered if their employee contract allows you to change rosters etc.)

But if an employee doesn’t agree, they could argue that you have in affect terminated their contract and you may find yourself paying out a significant redundancy or they could make a claim.

So go the four day a week route, bang the drum about all pulling together, and get the workforce to see it as a positive.  After all, this could be the chance for some workers to take up that course they always wanted to do, help the kid get through VCE, or visit the aging parents!

Good luck,

Your Aunty B.

Aunty B - Your problems answered by SmartCompany's business bitch

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