I am aware of the FourDayWeek campaign led by Fórsa, ICTU and other civil society groups. Many of the implications of this proposal need to be carefully considered for the entire labour force and not simply in the public service. Indeed, any movement by the public service in isolation could have serious consequences for small and medium-sized businesses struggling in the face of Covid-19.
I will deal with the public services as the Deputy has asked. However, I would first like to make the point that the State is already a good employer that offers staff considerable flexibility through the availability of, among other things, work sharing, flexible working hours, shorter working years, career breaks and now remote working.
In my role as Minister, I have to ensure that quality public services are delivered to the people in a manner that delivers value for money to the taxpayer. There are two core issues associated with any transition to a four-day week for the public service. The first is the cost to the taxpayer and the second is ensuring continuity of services to the public. Estimating the full Exchequer cost of the proposal would be highly complex as it would encompass more than 342,000 public servants across almost 200 organisations. At a very high level, paying people for four days but providing services to the citizen over five, and in some cases seven, days would add at least one fifth to the current pay bill of approximately €20 billion. That equates to an extra €4 billion, which would have to be found to deliver the same level of services. In reality, an extra €4 billion is probably a conservative estimate as gaps would likely be filled though overtime payments and additional cover from agency staffing, both of which come at a considerable premium. It is unclear how increased productivity alone could offset the cost in the context of keeping essential services open. Practical issues will arise for the Garda, members of the fire brigade, nurses in hospitals and so on operating a four-day week. I can go into that in a moment.