Work Life: California Legislation Would Shorten Workweek to 32 Hours for Big Companies

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California lawmakers are considering a bill that would shorten the standard workweek to 32 hours for employers with more than 500 workers — a move that would likely thrill most employees but is expected to get plenty of pushback from the business community.

Employees would still get the same pay under the shorter workweek, CNBC reported, and those who work longer hours would be compensated at a rate of no less than 1.5 times the regular rate of pay.

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The proposed bill would need to get approval from the California state legislature before being signed into law. For now, it is still awaiting a hearing. California assembly members Cristina Garcia and Evan Low coauthored the bill. They tout it as a logical next step for employers that want to do a better job of attracting and retaining employees in a tight labor market compounded by the Great Resignation.

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“We’ve seen over 47 million people voluntarily leave their jobs for better opportunities. We’re seeing a labor shortage across the board from small to big businesses,” Garcia told Fortune. “And so it’s very clear that employees don’t want to go back to normal or the old way, but to rethink and go back to [something] better … They are looking for a healthier work/life balance. They want to feel less stress.”

California’s bill follows on the heels of other, private-sector efforts to shorten the workweek. As GOBankingRates previously reported, 38 North American companies are taking part in a pilot program to test a four-day workweek, including crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and numerous tech firms.

Proponents of a shorter workweek say employees will remain just as productive as they were working five days or 40 hours, but not everyone is on board. As CNBC reported, the California Chamber of Commerce called the proposed bill a “job killer” that will lead to higher costs for businesses under the theory that companies will have to hire more workers to get the job done.

“Labor costs are often one of the highest costs a business faces. Such a large increase in labor costs will reduce businesses’ ability to hire or create new positions and will therefore limit job growth in California.” Ashley Hoffman, a public policy advocate at the California Chamber Commerce, wrote in a letter to Low.

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California state politicians aren’t the only ones pursuing legislation to reduce the workweek. Last summer, U.S. House Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) introduced a similar bill at the federal level that has gotten support from labor rights groups such as the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

Takano’s bill has still not gotten a hearing in the House, however, and is unlikely to be approved, experts say. The proposed California bill doesn’t seem likely to pass the Statehouse either, at least in its current form.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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