Audit Scotland, the nation's spending watchdog, has initiated preliminary discussions regarding the feasibility of a four-day working week for its staff. This move comes after the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, the UK's largest civil service trade union, introduced the topic to the organization.
In a recent Freedom of Information request by the TaxPayers' Alliance, Audit Scotland confirmed: "Yes, we have begun early initial conversations about how this working practice could be approached and researched. Still at the early stages of these discussions. Our PCS union introduced the conversations."
A 2021 "scoping project" commissioned by the PCS union, involving over 2,000 Scottish Government employees, revealed that a significant 87% supported the idea of a four-day week. Furthermore, during their annual conference, PCS members deliberated on the proposal, with a motion urging the union to "actively encourage bargaining for PCS workplaces across the UK to establish a four-day working week at no detriment to pay".
When questioned about the potential implementation of a four-day week, Audit Scotland responded that such a decision would be "part of our research and considerations". They clarified that they had not engaged with the 4 Day Week campaign group or generated any related briefing documents.
Audit Scotland is tasked with the audit of £57 billion of public expenditure in Scotland, encompassing 300 public sector accounts.
However, Elliot Keck, the campaign head at the TaxPayers' Alliance, voiced concerns, stating: "Scottish taxpayers cannot afford for the public spending watchdog to go part-time. The four-day week experiment drives down outcomes in the public sector. Audit Scotland should abandon these plans and cancel the clock off."
In 2021, following the PCS survey, the Scottish Government launched a pilot scheme inviting civil servants to avail an additional day off weekly as a "non-pay benefit", aiming to reduce the financial strain of pay awards on employers. Cat Boyd, the national officer for the PCS in Scotland, criticized any potential compromise on wages as "ill-considered and frankly insulting", emphasizing that any reduction in working hours that also cuts pay would negate the economic and workforce advantages.
An Audit Scotland representative commented: "Like other organizations, we're in early discussions with our union about exploring whether a shorter working week has the potential to improve efficiency, productivity, and well-being."