Uniqlo moves to 4-day work week for some employees

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NEW YORK — Will the four-day work week soon become a thing in Japan?

The Japanese fashion brand Uniqlo said this week it will offer it as an option to 10,000 of its Japan-based store employees come October.

Uniqlo, which is owned by Fast Retailing and has stores in 15 countries, says the new policy is intended as a retention tool to help keep its valued employees and make it easier for them to tend to their family obligations.

Workers who opt for a four-day week will put in 10 hours a day, but will be asked to work weekends and holidays. Uniqlo said it expects about 20 percent of employees to accept the offer.

If the new system works well, Uniqlo will consider introducing it at its corporate headquarters in Japan, and perhaps even overseas markets including the U.S.

Industry observers told The Japan Times that with Japan facing labor shortages, other retailers, restaurants and service businesses might follow Uniqlo’s lead and offer a compressed work week to attract workers.

That paper also reported that major Japanese companies temporarily offered four-day work weeks as a way to address power shortages in 2011 following the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. But only a few have offered the benefit on a permanent basis since.

In the U.S., a 4-day workweek is offered as an option to at least some employees at 43 percent of companies, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. But only 10 percent of those companies make it available to all or most of their employees.

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