MINISTERS in Scotland have been urged to include public sector workers in their trial on a four day working week.

The call was made in Holyrood today by the Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba, who said evidence from existing pilots shows that the policy "provides benefits to workers and businesses".

Last year the Scottish Government announced that it was designing a £10million pilot to help companies in the private sector explore the scheme.

But Ms Villalba pressed employment minister Richard Lochhead on whether it would be expanded to staff in the public sector. She said the Scottish Government has the power to introduce a four-day week into the public sector.

Mr Lochhead said: "We agree there are many benefits potentially from introducing a four day working week, that is why we are taking the very ambitious and radical step of piloting, at a cost of £10 million in this parliament, a pilot to look at the cost and benefits of a four day working week in Scotland.

"Indeed several Scottish businesses are already choosing to switch to a four day working week with no cut in pay and officials from the government have been meeting with and gathering information from these companies, from pilots in the UK and other European countries as well."

He added: "We will take into account the points the member has raised as we take forward the pilots."

Last year a survey found that more than eight out of 10 people in Scotland would support the introduction of a four-day working week.

The poll for the Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland found 80 per cent of those questioned believed that cutting their number of days at work – with no loss of pay – would have a “positive effect on their wellbeing”.

The poll also found 88% of respondents – about 2,203 people aged between 16 and 65 were questioned – would be willing to take part in trial schemes being set up by Scottish Government ministers.

Pilots are being staged in the wake of changes in working practices brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, with the Government having pledged a £10 million fund for companies trialling a four-day week.

But IPPR Scotland, a think-tank, said the Scottish Government should expand such schemes to include more sectors of the economy, people working in non-office-based jobs, those who do shift work and part-time employees.

The think-tank argued that unless lower-paid sectors were included in the pilot, along with those who may find making the shift to a four-day week more difficult, the trial schemes may not properly test the impact of such a switch.

The poll also found almost two-thirds (65%) believe a shorter working week could boost Scotland’s productivity.

Iceland, Spain, Japan and New Zealand have all trialled similar four-day week plans.