The Law in 4 – Employment and Immigration news 16/03/2023

1. Higher Profits, Higher spirits – Should Britain Finally Adopt a Four-Day Working Week?

The largely debated four-day working week has finally shown promise, following a “major breakthrough moment”. A six-month trial carried out by the University of Cambridge revealed that, not only was there an improvement in the workers’ wellbeing, but there was also a marginal increase in revenue.

In fact, of the 61 businesses involved, only five decided not to continue with the four-day week. We are prompted to ask why such a beneficial scheme is not being implemented everywhere; more profit, happier workers and less burnout – what more could a business want? Perhaps it’s those hesitant about the increase in workload, or those working in creative sectors concerned about the reduced casual conversations, where their ideas are formed, that are delaying the implementation of a four-day week. Nevertheless, society appears to be headed in one direction, and soon enough Thursday might be the new Friday.


2. As Always, There Are Sceptics

After all, will a four-day week not turn into a three day one? Perhaps one day there will be a push to stop working altogether. As ridiculous as it sounds, this is only the beginning. The idea of a four-day week has been branded ‘embarrassing’, as cynics criticise society for becoming increasingly lazy. Indeed, in practice, it may be foolish to drastically alter current working practices based on a singular study.

Is the concept of a four-day week a modern approach to the realistic nature of workers nowadays, prioritising well-being, or simply a reflection on an unmotivated, unproductive society?

Opinion on this topic is most certainly divided!!


3. Law firms Face the Dark Side of Technology 

The development of data and technology has made our lives easier, faster and more productive.  It has also proven to be particularly beneficial to businesses and law firms in improving their internal processes and external services – we may question whether some would even be successful without this. What many people fail to realise, however, is that technology can just as easily cause their downfall.

The detrimental consequences have recently become prevalent to law firms (as well as other businesses), who are facing cyber-attacks following an increased sophistication in cybercrime. A highly valued reputation in combination with the confidential information causes law firms to be a prime target for hackers – one company has faced a loss of £5 million following a ransomware attack.

Along with taking the necessary steps towards increasing your technology involving IT tools, don’t forget that employers can take some basic steps for all their staff, such as having policies in place, taking practical steps to make sure their accounts are regularly refreshed when it comes to password protection and having a clear process on managing any non-compliance.  While disciplining staff for their failings won’t stop the cybercrime advances which may be an inevitable outcome of society’s ever-improving technology, it will certainly help to breed better practices.


4. The Fight Against Discrimination – Are we Doing Enough?

We will end our Law in 4 with a comment on the presence of discrimination within the workplace, following a case where a nurse finally received justice after enduring degrading treatment during her employment at the NHS.

Ms Cox was faced with racial abuse as her manager excluded her from various important events and recruitment processes, offering untruthful excuses. While justice has finally been served for Ms Cox, we should question whether this should have even reached the tribunal  – undoubtedly the NHS should work harder to take steps to prevent discrimination in the workplace.

The NHS has commented on the matter, stating that ‘[n]o one should ever experience racism, discrimination or prejudice at work and NHS England will fully consider the learning from the employment tribunal.’ It is an uncomfortable truth that, despite attempts to fight against discrimination at work, it persists and we can only hope that the NHS will stand by its statement and take effective action to prevent, and then to deal with the issues should they arise.  Many employers will have similar statements in their policies, but without active management, education and taking complaints seriously, these cases will continue to arise.  So, no, the answer to “are we doing enough” is too often “no”.