On July 1, 2024, the Greece government introduced a six-day working week for specific industries. The legislation allows for a traditional 40-hour workweek to be extended to 48 hours for some businesses. This includes an additional two hours per day or an extra eight-hour shift for private companies providing 24-hour services.

Greece Becomes First EU Country to Implement Six-Day Working Week

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The six-day workweek policy came into effect on July 1, 2024. The policy applies only to private businesses that provide round-the-clock services such as certain manufacturing facilities and businesses with continuous operations.

Employees can now work up to 48 hours per week either by adding two extra hours to each workday or by working an additional eight-hour shift.

The Greece government was led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, asserts that the workweek is a growth-oriented measure designed to stimulate the economy by increasing productivity.

Greece faces shortage of skilled workers by a substantial emigration of young, educated professionals during the financial crisis of the late 2000s.

The policy plans to reduce undeclared work, which is prevalent in Greece and leads to substantial tax evasion.

Workers in the food service and tourism industries are excluded from this initiative. The focus is on businesses that require continuous operations such as manufacturing and certain retail sectors.

Employees working the additional hours are set to receive a 40% pay increase for the extra time. If these hours are worked on a holiday, the pay increase jumps to 115%.

This regulation is part of a labor law reform passed last year by the Greek government led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Employees who opt for the additional working day are entitled to a 40% increase in their daily wage for the overtime hours.

The government addresses that the policy is designed to make sure of fair compensation for overtime and prevent under-declared work hours.

Prime Minister Mitsotakis claims that the legislation aligns Greece with European norms. The government describes the policy as worker-friendly and argues that it provides flexibility for employees who wish to increase their income.

There is concern that the policy will perpetuate low wages and poor working conditions in a country where workers already face Bulgarian salaries in a country of British prices.

Many countries including Belgium, the UK and Germany have been experimenting with or implementing four-day workweek models often resulting in increased productivity and improved employee well-being.

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The policy does not apply to tourist businesses and the food industry which are important sectors in Greece’s economy.

Labor unions have opposed the new regulation describing it as an erosion of workers’ rights. They argue that it undermines the five-day workweek and could lead to exploitative labor practices.

Political analysts and academics say that the six-day working week is a step backward especially as many countries are exploring shorter workweeks to improve work-life balance and productivity.

Greece already has the longest working hours in the European Union with Greek employees working an average of 1,886 hours per year compared to the EU average of 1,571 hours.

A report by think tank Autonomy highlighted that most companies participating in a trial of a four-day workweek found it beneficial and chose to make the policy permanent.

Countries like Germany and the Netherlands have been actively reducing working hours to improve quality of life and productivity.

Greece’s new legislation is seen as a departure from these trends and has sparked debates about the balance between economic growth and worker well-being.

Greece’s economy is still recovering from a crisis and it is projected to grow by 3% in 2024. With an unemployment rate above 10%, the new labor laws aim to create more job opportunities.

The average monthly salary in Greece is 1,175 euros, lower than it was 15 years ago. Some say that increasing working hours without wage improvements may not lead to an improvement in living standards for workers.

There is growing concern that the new regulation will negatively impact worker health and well-being. The potential for 65 to 78-hour workweeks under the new rules could lead to physical and mental health issues.

In Australia discussions around the six-day workweek shows concerns about unpaid overtime and the need for flexible working arrangements.

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