For most people, labor law can be boring. But when someone suggests working an extra day, people start to pay attention. In Greece, new regulations effective July 1 will make this possible for certain sectors.

Starting July 1, specific industrial and manufacturing facilities, along with businesses providing 24/7 services, can transition to a six-day workweek instead of the traditional five-day week, according to Emmanouil Savoidakis, head of the labor law practice at Politis & Partners, an Athens-based law firm specializing in business law. However, the tourism and food service industries are excluded from this new arrangement.

Under the new rules, affected employees will have a normal legal workweek of 48 hours, up from the previous 40. While employees can choose to work more if companies request it, those who do will also receive additional pay. The Greek government asserts that the new regulations will simplify administration, reduce probation periods to six months, and clarify overtime rules.

The legislation aims to address gaps in the skilled labor market by combating undeclared work and offering incentives like free employee training to help “upskill and adapt to evolving market demands,” according to Savoidakis. Notably, “the six-day workweek is not universally applicable but is restricted to certain business sectors.”

Greece’s move to a six-day workweek contrasts sharply with trends in other European countries. Nations like Germany, Belgium, France, the UK, Spain, and Iceland are experimenting with different workweek models. These include compressing the 40-hour week into four more intense 10-hour days or achieving the same productivity in 80% of the time while still providing full salaries.

Earlier this year in Germany, for example, Deutsche Bahn and the train drivers’ union agreed to gradually reduce the standard workweek from 38 to 35 hours. Demands for shorter workweeks are also emerging in other sectors.

Greece has faced numerous challenges, including low wages, high unemployment, and a declining population. However, the country is on a path to recovery, with GDP growth expected to reach 2.2% this year and 2.3% next year, surpassing the eurozone average, according to European Commission calculations released in mid-May. Unemployment is forecast to drop from 10.3% this year to 9.7% in 2025.

Despite this, many young, well-educated Greeks have left the country over the past decade, seeking better opportunities abroad. The population is expected to shrink from 10.7 million in 2019 to around 10.4 million by 2029, exacerbating existing labor shortages in sectors like agriculture, tourism, and construction. Meanwhile, Greeks already work some of the longest hours per year compared to their counterparts in the UK, the US, and Germany, according to the OECD.

On a positive note, the minimum monthly wage for white-collar workers rose to €830 ($887) from April 1, up from €650 in 2019. The average monthly wage is now around €1,250, with plans to increase it to €1,500 by 2027. However, these wage hikes do not offset previous wage reductions and persistent high inflation, which have forced many citizens to work two jobs to make ends meet, according to Jens Bastian from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin.

Bastian notes that the new regulations “retroactively adjust the legal context to the reality existing in the Greek labor market for years,” meaning many people already work more than five days a week. Working longer and earning more could also push employees into higher personal income tax and social security brackets, neutralizing potential wage gains.

The new regulations give employers significant leverage. Jobseekers may find it challenging to refuse the offer of a six-day workweek and stick to the traditional five days. Many working time arrangements in Greece lack trade union representation, especially in small and medium-sized companies. “Keeping your job may be the bigger incentive than refusing to work longer hours at the insistence of the employer,” Bastian said.

Savoidakis from Politis & Partners reports that several corporate clients are already interested in a six-day workweek to enhance their operational capacity and better serve their customers, particularly in industries facing labor shortages and high seasonal demand. This model could be adopted in businesses with fluctuating workloads like retail, manufacturing, and healthcare.

However, Bastian cautions that a six-day workweek is merely a short-term fix. It won’t solve Greece’s broader economic problems. Structural changes are needed, including incentives for viable career trajectories, equal opportunities, and higher wages that reflect professional expertise. “In that respect, Greece has a long and winding road to go until it catches up with most other countries in Europe. Working longer hours and on Saturdays is akin to taking a road in the opposite direction,” he concluded.

By Impact Lab