A four-day workweek could be coming to Maryland.
A new bill introduced by Maryland lawmakers this month incentivizes both public and private employers to experiment with a shortened workweek without cutting pay and benefits.
Under the program, businesses that shift at least 30 employees from a 40-hour week down to 32 could get a state tax credit. The bill also encourages state and municipal government agencies to implement a shorter workweek and report their results.
Employers can participate in the state-sponsored experiment for up to two years, and the entire program will phase out in 2028. It provides up to $750,000 in tax credits per year and will be overseen by the Maryland Department of Labor.
"People want more free time to spend with their families," Del. Vaughn Stewart, representative of Maryland's 19th district and sponsor of the bill, tells CNBC Make It.
He was inspired by results from hundreds of U.S. workers who were part of a global four-day workweek experiment in 2022, led by the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global.
Following a six-month trial, workers said their performance improved and their levels of burnout went down. Businesses reported an 8% increase in revenue throughout the trial period, and each said they planned to continue with a shortened workweek in the future.
"We could be on the verge of a win-win situation, where we can give workers more free time while not only doing no harm to businesses, but maybe even boosting productivity," Stewart says.
Hearings on the bill are expected to come next month. If signed into law, the program would go into effect July 1.
There's a good chance the bill could pass, says Lisa Stickney, management professor at the University of Baltimore. "It has a lot of grassroots support and has been put forth by a number of our delegates," she tells CNBC Make It.
Support for a shortened workweek has gained steam during the pandemic, she says, as levels of work burnout reach fever pitch around the world. "The bottom line is, people need relief," she says. "Research shows performance and productivity go up when you're rested. Everyone needs a mental break."
Several countries have experimented with a four-day workweek, including Iceland, Denmark, Spain and Belgium. But an official law hasn't made its way to the U.S. yet.
California lawmakers introduced a bill last year that would change the definition of a standard workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours for companies with more than 500 people, and require they pay overtime for additional hours. The bill stalled.
And at the national level, in 2021 lawmakers introduced legislation in Congress to mandate overtime pay after 32 hours, but it also failed. Its sponsor, Rep. Mark Takano of California, has said he would try again.
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