The law would allow the maximum weekly timetable to be adjusted downwards. In many countries it has at least been tested. Why not in Italy?

Often what happens in the rest of the world, for better or for worse, does not belong to us. And this is a fact. Out of inertia, out of fear, out of a strange sense of tradition, in our country the verb “dare” is not conjugated very frequently. Even when it could open new horizons or, at least, allow you to know if it is appropriate to marry a certain change or if it is better to go back with the awareness of being able to say: “If nothing else, we tried.” A striking example is the one concerning the four day work week. It’s possible apply it in Italy?

Many countries, unlike ours, have wanted to remove the doubt. In reality, even for us it would be feasible starting from collective agreements, reshuffling the schedules, removing rigidity from the current system on which our “Republic founded on work” is based, as stated in Article 1 of the Constitution. A rigidity that manifests itself in privileging presence over result, two things that do not always go hand in hand. To achieve such a goal, however, in addition to a project that keeps the country’s production plant up and running, it takes courage. The courage that others have shown to have, to try to give back to the workers a piece of that family and social life often torn from the weeks of five or six days.

Who adopted the four-day week?

There four day week is a reality of several countries: one day less for the same salary. In Francefor example, in 2002 a law was passed based on a project suggested in 1997 by then President Jacques Chirac, which reduced the weekly hours from 39 to 35 hours. 33 in Denmark and in Norwayin Holland even 29.

In Belgiumthe short week was introduced in early 2022, while in Iceland employees work no more than 36 hours in four days, with results that the Reykjavík government defines as exciting: less stress and more balance between work and private life they even have increased productivity.

There Spain it is trying now, with an experimental period of reducing the work week that started in the fall of 2021 that will go on for three years. Even if some companies, thanks to the Covid pandemic, had already moved before and, given the results, decided to keep the system of the week at four days.

What are the hourly limits in Italy?

To date, and considering what happens in most companies, i.e. the application of a 40-hour working week over 5 or 6 days, the hourly limits to be respected under the general regime are the following:

  • normal weekly hours: 40 hours;
  • maximum weekly time: 48 hours;
  • daily hours: depending on the job and sector;
  • daily rest: 11 hours;
  • weekly rest: 35 hours;
  • minimum daily break: 10 minutes.

Is it possible to implement the four-day week in Italy?

In Italy, the bases are there but the concrete projects are still dormant. And to say that in 2003 a law was approved, which has already entered into force [1], which acknowledges two European directives on the need to make the organization of work in companies more flexible. A need that, beyond the possible advantages for employees in terms of private life, would bring benefits for companies in terms of costs: the fewer days a branch is opened, the less energy costs there are, between electricity and gas for heating.

The 2003 law sets the maximum time of weekly work in 40 hours (48 hours for weeks to six days). But he doesn’t say which one it should be the minimum time nor what limits are there for the daily one, while decreeing the minimum rest to which the worker is entitled between one service and another (11 consecutive hours between one day and another, 35 hours per week).

The same law, however, allows collective bargaining to intervene to establish a shorter hours and to “refer the working time to the average duration of the work performed in a period not exceeding one year”. A faculty that today the law also grants to territorial and corporate contracts. Basically, setting up a short week in a productive reality can be decided not only by the National Collective Labor Agreement but also by the individual entrepreneur who deems it feasible, appropriate and convenient. Nothing forbids it.

Assuming that you want to keep the ceiling of 40 hours per week, it would be necessary to spread the 8 hours that are not worked on the fifth day on the remaining four days, which would lead to a maximum of 10 hours a day. Which, however, already happens in companies where there are employees who often do extraordinary. Extra work money should be given up in exchange for an extra day off.

But there would also be an inevitable change of pace in terms of mentality. Because if you want to reach the goal of other countries, the basic problem is not just to work one day less a week but to reduce the maximum number of hours per week, which is different. Working 10 hours a day for four days or 8 hours a day for five days is always 40 hours a week. In the states we mentioned at the beginning, the maximum load has been lowered: one day less without touching the daily limit. And it is here that the greatest effort is required, the one that others have at least wanted to experience but which in Italy seems a mirage rather than a distant goal.


[1] Legislative Decree n. 66/2003.

Four-day working week – is it possible?