The Four-Day Work Week: How Does Canada Stack Up?

business people 4
The four-day work week is more
common around the world.

LSM Insurance is one of the few companies in Canada to offer a four-day work week. 

We started offering a four-day work week to all our employees in 2009 — following the recession — as a way to continue to motivate the staff without having to give them a raise. Essentially, all LSM employees can work however they want, as long as the work gets done and they get to stay home on Fridays or whatever other day during the week they choose.

“Essentially it comes out to a raise because they’re saving a lot of time on the commute and they’re saving gas. Gas is money in their pocket and the time gives them a lot of free time, which can allow them to do other things. So, it’s one day of less driving, but you’re also driving less at the peak times,” LSM Insurance founder Lorne Marr told Tim Denis on Denis’s show on Talk Radio AM640 in April.

The four-day work week is also paying off in a big way for LSM. As Marr noted, sharp increases in productivity and employee morale existed from the beginning of the condensed work week’s implementation.

“In some way, they work more during the four days, since they’re being more productive,” Marr told The Markham Economist and Sun. “Our company is based on salary and bonus pay, so they can actually make more money off the bonus pay by being more focused and working harder.”

Yet, there aren’t very many companies in North America who are implementing a four-day work week. The provincial governments in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan were discussing the possibility for their public sector employees in 2008, but we couldn’t find any evidence that it was actually implemented in either case. There are also individual companies in Canada, such as Babcock & Wilcox Canada and Chrysler, that have implemented a four-day week, but in this country such an arrangement is more the exception rather than the rule. The U.S. is the same way. Forbes reports that just 36% of employers permit at least some employees to have four-day work-weeks and only 7% allow all or most staffers to do their jobs this way.

When it comes to the rest of the world, North America is lagging behind. CNN Money counted down the shortest work weeks in the world and the following is what they found:

The Netherlands

Average Hours Worked Per Week: 29

Average Annual Income: $47,000

    • The four-day work week is nearly standard, especially among working moms.
    • 86% of working mothers worked 34 hours or less each week while 12% of fathers worked a condensed week.
    • All workers in the Netherlands get fully-paid vacation days, paid maternity and paternity leave, and the right to reduce their working hours to a part-time schedule without losing their jobs, hourly pay, healthcare, and pro-rated benefits.
    • They work the least of any industrialized country.


Average Hours Worked Per Week: 33

Average Annual Income: $46,000

  • Flexible work schedules and ample vacation time are common.
  • The right to five weeks paid vacation a year.
  • Labour laws are based on “Flexicurity” where employers can hire and fire workers easily, but the unemployed are also protected by a large government safety net.
  • Unemployment benefits can last up to two years.


Average Hours Worked Per Week: 33

 Average Annual Income: $44,000

  • Norway’s labour laws are the most generous in the world.
  • Norwegians get a minimum of 21 vacation days per year.
  • Parents of young children have the right to reduce their hours.
  • Maternity leave is 43 weeks with full pay and 53 weeks with reduced pay.
  • Part-time work is common, especially among women.


Average Hours Worked Per Week: 34

Average Annual Income: $51,000

  • Average hours worked have gone down by ten hours since 1983.
  • Part of the decline is due to fewer full-time farming jobs.
  • Part-time jobs have been increasing faster than the overall employment rate.
  • These fewer hours are due to worker’s own preferences and a weaker job market.


Average Hours Worked Per Week: 35

Average Annual Income: $40,000

  • Part-time work has become more common since the recession.
  • Since 2012, one in four Germans works part-time.
  • Germany has a work-sharing policy that encourages employers to reduce their employees’ hours instead of laying them off.
  • The government also partially reimburses workers for the wages they would’ve had if their hours hadn’t been reduced.
  • The work-sharing policy helped reduce Germany’s unemployment rate to 5%.


Average Hours Per Week: 35

Average Annual Income: $50,000

  • Swiss people are the happiest people in the world.
  • Swiss people earn the same as the average American worker but work 155 hours less.
  • A third of Swiss people have part-time schedules.
  • 79% of Switzerland’s working population is employed, which is the highest of any industrialized nation.


Average Hours Worked Per Week: 35

Average Annual Income: $44,000

  • Every Belgian gets one year off in their working lifetime.
  • During this break, they get an allowance from the government.
  • They get 15 weeks maternity leave and 10 days paternity leave.
  • They get three months parental leave, which can be broken down into short bursts up to their children’s 12th birthday.
  • They work 210 hours less per year than the average American worker.


Average Hours Worked Per Week: 36

Average Annual Income: $38,000

  • Working culture is based on agreements with trade union.
  • Collective bargaining has pushed for a gradually shorter work week, flexible working hours, and telecommuting.
  • Part-time work is dominated by women.
  • Swedes work 143 fewer hours than the average American worker.


Average Hours Worked Per Week: 36

Average Annual Income: $45,000

  • Australian law puts the official work week at 38 hours.
  • The Australian government laid out 10 new minimum protections for workers in 2009.
  • These protections include a right to public holidays, severance pay, and leave for a variety of reasons, including community service work.


Average Hours Worked Per Week: 36

Average Annual Income: $34,000

  • Italian workers are entitled to four weeks paid vacation a year.
  • Work-sharing happens in Italy.
  • The maximum work week for full-time workers is 40 hours per week.
  • Overtime is limited to eight hours per week.
  • Employers face fines if workers work more hours than the above.

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  • Martha
    July 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    I think the 4 day work week sounds great! If you can finish up all your work within those days, then awesome. Sometimes some works require more work for some people so it may be harder for them.

    • LSM Insurance
      July 8, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks, I think it’s a matter of prioritizing and scheduling – the same number of hours are being worked.