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AUG. 23, 2022

Government reactivates 40-Hour bill and presents amendments to the initiative that will be discussed urgently by the Senate

The bill now includes recommendations received in public and open hearings. It was determined through citizen participation mechanisms that the initiative will improve workers’ quality of life and that its implementation should be gradual. 

A bill was presented in 2017 to “modify the labor code in order to reduce the working week” to 40 hours. It is an emblematic bill that has been long-awaited by Chilean workers, but processing is currently halted in its second constitutional stage in the Senate Labor Commission. 

The government has forcefully promoted the initiative through the Labor Ministry, and President Gabriel Boric has today announced that they have come up with amendments to reincorporate and reactivate the bill. He was joined at the announcement by Labor Minister Jeannette Jara, Minister Secretary General of the Government Camila Vallejo, Treasury Minister Mario Marcel, and Minister Secretary General of the Presidency Giorgio Jackson. 

The Senate Labor Commission will thus begin to urgently discuss the initiative, which needs a simple majority to be approved. 

The amendments were obtained following 26 public and open hearings throughout Chile. More than 200 organizations representing the diversity of stakeholders in the world of work participated. They were technically advised by important universities, such as the Universidad de Chile and the Pontificia Universidad Católica. 

The main consensus of the hearings was that reducing the working week to 40 hours would improve workers’ quality of life, as they will have more time for rest, recreation, family and community life. Secondly, it was determined that implementation should be gradual, without differentiating between company size, which could generate distortions in the labor market. 

President Gabriel Boric highlighted that the 40 Hour bill “came about in 2017, as an initiative of Minister Vallejo, Congresswoman Cariola, and other parliamentarians, who gradually added their support. It is now one step closer to becoming reality. The great thing is that, as it has progressed, there are companies that have already implemented the policy, who have shown that often a law is not required to improve quality of life, but also disposition and social dialogue.” 

He added that “this social dialogue, which we had already trialed regarding the minimum wage, where we reached a significant and important agreement with SMEs to implement it, is what allows us to now present these amendments with a strong consensus. Therefore, we have also made this project fairly urgent, so that it can be debated in parliament and fine-tuned as parliamentarians consider it necessary, but always with the conviction that it has to move forward.” 

According to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for 2021, Chileans work an average of 1,916 hours per year, 11.7% above the average of other countries from the bloc. In fact, 70% of OECD countries have set a limit of 40 hours per week or less. 

Amendments 

One of the amendments to the bill presented by the government is to extend the scope of reducing working hours to include most of the categories contained in the Labor Code, not only those considered in Article 22. This implies including special working days, as is the case for private domestic workers, or drivers and workers of intercity collective transport. 

Modifications to the regulations on excluding limited, part-time and exceptional working hours have also been included. The reduction of working hours will thus directly affect more than four million workers throughout Chile. 

In specific cases where, due to the nature of the work, it is not possible to effectively reduce working hours, the goal of providing greater rest time will be achieved through other mechanisms, such as days off or additional holidays. 

The reduction of the working day must be implemented with care and responsibility, with regard to the effects that it may have on the economy as a whole, protecting jobs and wages. This implies gradually applying the reduction in order to allow companies to adjust their productive processes and absorb it with the least possible impact. There will be special support for micro and small businesses. 

The reduction of working hours must also be accompanied by social co-responsibility measures that confront the unequal distribution of caregiving tasks and unpaid work, which mainly fall on women. 91.6% of women carry out these tasks, compared to 73.9% of men. Measures have therefore been established in this regard. 

Additionally, technological advances have been incorporated into the regulations for registering attendance and controlling working hours, taking into account that there are new mechanisms for worker oversight. 

Lastly, the bill proposes staggering the implementation of the reduction, without differentiating between company size, in order to reduce the working week to 40 hours within a five-year period. It will be reduced to 44 hours in the first year, 42 hours in the third year and 40 hours in the fifth year.