Civil servants are pushing for a four-day week with no less pay.
The officials working at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are seeking to become the first in Whitehall to trial a four-day working week.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union have called for a pilot scheme across more than 21,000 Defra employees to assess the benefits to their well-being and productivity.
The union is proposing a 20 per cent cut in working hours with no loss of wages.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, said: “Evidence suggests a four-day week would lead to a better work-life balance for staff and could improve productivity for the employer.
“Previous trials have led to a reduction in sick leave and improvements to staff retention and satisfaction. If Defra wants to seriously address the issues of employee burnout, stress and poor well-being they will listen to our members and implement this pilot.”
Civil servants, though, have been criticised for being slow to abandon working from home and to get back into the office after the Covid pandemic.
Some MPs also believe parts of Whitehall are very inefficient, delivering poor productivity, with bloated bureaucracy, even if other areas are high-performing.
Britain has suffered low productivity for years with economic experts saying that only by improving it will living standards rise sustainably.
The Government dismissed the proposed trial of a four-day week.
A spokesperson said: “There are no plans for this. Value-for-money should be provided to the taxpayer.”
The PCS union, though, argues that a four-day week is a practice spreading quickly across the private and public sectors.
It delivered a petition to Defra chiefs asking them to give the green light to the trial.
The move comes after the results of an interim survey of PCS members across all government departments showed in a startling finding that 60 per cent of them were considering quitting if they were forced to return to the office three days a week.
Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, said: “A four-day working week with no loss of pay improves both productivity and the wellbeing of workers.
“It’s been tested time and time again with great success in the private sector so it’s only right and fair to see if these benefits can apply to public sector workers.
“We’re long overdue a reduction in working hours and we’re proud to be supporting PCS members in their campaign.”
Civil servants benefit from better pensions than many workers in the private sector.
Top pay in the private sector is higher but low pay is more common, than in the public sector.