Public sector four-day week would cost taxpayers £30bn in lost time

For immediate release


As quoted by Anthony Browne MP at today’s prime minister’s questions, the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has revealed that rolling out a four-day working week across the public sector would cost £30 billion per year in lost working time. This is the equivalent of a 5p rise in the basic rate of income tax.

A four-day week, whereby employees would reduce their hours worked for the same pay, is currently being trialled for staff in South Cambridgeshire District Council. The TPA campaigned against the extension of the trial to March next year, arguing that public services are not a suitable place to conduct the four-day week experiment.

The true cost of the four-day week across the public sector would likely be even higher, as new staff would have to be employed in order to maintain service levels. There is also little chance of the 14.4 per cent increase in productivity needed to offset this, with productivity only up by 4.1 per cent in the public sector in the twenty years up to the covid pandemic.  

The TPA has called on ministers to take action to stop the spread of a four-day week across the public sector. 



Key findings:

  • Moving to a 32 hour four-day working week will mean the loss of £29.6 billion of working time in the public sector.

  • There is no evidence to support the theory that moving to a four-day working week will significantly improve productivity.

  • Public sector productivity only increased by 4.1 per cent in total in the twenty years up to the covid pandemic. 

  • A 14.4 per cent increase in productivity in the public sector would be required to offset the loss of hours caused by a four-day week.

  • The loss of working time caused by a four-day week will result in either poorer public services or a substantial increase in taxes or borrowing to pay for more staff to make up the shortfall.


James Roberts, managing director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

"With a four-day working week, taxpayers would be on the hook for a part-time public sector.” 

“While the jury is still out on the potential benefits of a four-day week, councils and other public bodies cannot be expected to lose a day every week with no impact on services.

“Ministers should be clear that they will stand firm against this four-day week fad.”

At prime minister’s questions today, Anthony Browne MP said:

“Liberal Democrat-run South Cambridgeshire District Council is the first in the country to put its staff on a four-day week without any reduction in pay. 

“It has led to a reduction in services and an increase in costs.

“Now unions are pushing to spread the four-day working week across the public sector, something that the TaxPayers Alliance estimate will cost £30 billion.”

TPA spokespeople are available for live and pre-recorded broadcast interviews via 07795 084 113 (no texts)

Media contact:

Conor Holohan
Media Campaign Manager, TaxPayers' Alliance
[email protected]
24-hour media hotline: 07795 084 113 (no texts)


Notes to editors:

  1. Founded in 2004 by Matthew Elliott and Andrew Allum, the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) campaigns to reform taxes and public services, cut waste and speak up for British taxpayers. Find out more at

  2. TaxPayers' Alliance's advisory council.

  3. The TaxPayers’ Alliance petition for the Stop the Clock Off campaign can be found here.
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