Utah state agencies prep return to 5-day workweek

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah state agencies will return to a traditional five-day workweek after Labor Day despite the popularity of the Monday-through-Thursday schedule with employees, according to a new plan from Gov. Gary Herbert. In a letter sent to employees late Wednesday, Herbert said that the change is necessary because of a legislative mandate that state agencies be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Because of budget constraints, the state cannot adhere to that law and maintain the 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. schedules that employees had while on the four-day workweek. The five-day law was passed by the Legislature but vetoed by Herbert, in part because the governor said it would cost about $800,000 to switch. Instead, he offered to help individual agencies open on Fridays in ways he said would be more cost-effective. Legislators, however, overrode Herbert’s veto in May. “Most certainly, this decision will generate mixed feelings,” Herbert said. “Some may be disappointed, having found the (four-day) workweek professionally and personally satisfying. Others may applaud the move. However, the return to a (five-day) workweek is the best alternative to balance both customer and employee needs.” Since Utah made the shift to the four-day workweek in 2008, it has been seen by state employees as a benefit of their job, said Utah Public Employees Association representative Todd Sutton. “A lot of them are upset,” Sutton said. “But there wasn’t anything we could do.” Employees have been given more than three months to adapt their personal schedules, which is extremely helpful, Sutton said. It is also possible that some agencies could allow flexible scheduling that could still keep some people on a four-day workweek, but it probably won’t be widespread. Allowing that flexibility for workers was one of the goals for the legislation, Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said. It was never intended to end the four-day workweek, but instead was meant to ensure that people and businesses who need access to a state agency on Friday would have it. “It’s disappointing. We gave him the flexibility to continue” the four-day workweek, Waddoups said. “But now he’s just saying it won’t work.” The four-day workweek was started by former Gov. Jon Huntsman, primarily as a way to conserve energy and save money. At the time, savings of nearly $3 million per year were projected, but an audit in 2010 showed that the savings were far less.

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