The New Workweek: 32 Hours and More Leisure

Capriccia Thomas, Health Editor

As Californians return to their work environments. Lawmakers are pushing to change the amount of days employees work.

AB 2932 is building momentum in California as it proposes to shorten work week hours from 40 to 32 for companies with more than 500 employees. An entire workday will still consist of eight hours, and employers will have to compensate employees overtime for working more than four days a week.

The bill was introduced by Christina Garcia (D), and Evan Low (D) following a shift in the work environment as 47 million employees left their jobs, according to CNBC

“This bill has not been heard yet in a committee, so it is a long way towards passage as I anticipate strong opposition by the Chamber of Commerce, who have called this a ‘job killer’ bill. Students entering the workforce should expect to work the hours required by their employer, and if the law changes, then they will have to adapt to any change in laws,” stated Professor Emeritus Dr. Kim Geron, Dept. of Political Science at California State University, East Bay and Principal Investigator for CSUEB’s Transfer Asian Pacific American Student Services program.

About 2,600 companies will be affected, according to California’s Employment Development Department. The Increase in labor costs would discourage job growth, especially with so many employers still trying to recover from the pandemic and face higher prices for supplies, NBC Bay Area wrote

Notably, the California Chamber of Commerce included this on their ‘job killer’ list, making hiring more expensive and leading to a drop in available jobs across the state. 

Although the bill seeks to update section 510 of the California Labor Code by reducing the workweek hours, ideally, a four-day workweek is a 32-hour workweek with no loss in productivity, pay, or benefits, according to Investopedia.

The future of California’s workforce is still being determined as COVID-19 continues to create unpredictable circumstances for the social and professional world.

“It is hard to predict what will happen to California’s workforce. People’s lives are very busy with children, multiple jobs, [and] long commutes, so this bill, if adopted, would enable workers to have more time with family and reduce their stress of working 40 hours a week. We know that workplace stress is high in this country,” Geron explained. 

Depending on the company and the industry, employees might work Monday through Thursday, with Fridays off. Other possibilities include allowing each employee to choose their extra day off or having a company-wide policy of a different third day off, such as Monday or Wednesday.

AB 2932 would require the compensation rate of pay at 32 hours to reflect the previous compensation rate of pay at 40 hours and would prohibit an employer from reducing an employee’s regular rate of pay due to this reduced hourly workweek requirement. The bill would exempt an employer with no more than 500 employees from the above provisions. 

I believe that a company that would offer a 32-hour workweek with the same pay as the current 40-hour pay would attract workers from other states and within California; since the law would apply only to large companies, it would attract workers who work in smaller companies who would not have the same 32-hour requirement. However, in order to compete, smaller companies might feel the need to match the 32-hour workweek to retain their workers,” Geron continued. 

With growing inflation and an ongoing pandemic, it’s important to understand how this bill will affect companies and future employees/employers. “One of the main arguments against this bill by the Calif. Chamber of Commerce is this bill would in effect cause employers to pay overtime after 32 hours to their workers which would drive up their costs and would not be financially feasible,” Geron explained.

Moreso, this bill explores the chance of having more free time at home for family and leisure. However, this would incite companies to hire additional workers to complete the job tasks left incomplete.

 “This argument assumes that most workers would still work 40 hours per week and get 8 hours of overtime pay per week. However, another possibility and one that the bill appears to be focused on is having people work efficiently for 32 hours and complete their job duties, and then stop work and not work overtime so they can spend more time pursuing other needs such as spending time with family, taking care of daily business and chores in a less hectic pace,” Geron concluded. “This would require hiring additional workers in some workplaces to cover those 8 hours that are no longer being worked by worker A, and hiring a Worker B to complete the 8 hours of the other workers who are now working 32 hours per week, such as in a grocery store or hospital.” 

AB 2932 has not been made law and is still under review by the Labor and Employment Committee.