The City of Merritt is launching a four-day work week pilot program.
Merritt CAO Sean Smith says the one-year trial will extend the opening hours of City Hall from 8 am to 5:45 pm, Tuesday through Friday.
“When we are talking about a four-day work week, we are not talking about working the same hours. We are talking about being open earlier, and open later.”
He explains the “compressed work week” is hoped to help attract, recruit and retain staff to the City, which he explains is an ongoing challenge.
“Merritt has been seen as a stepping stone community until somebody can parlay a job here into higher wages somewhere else.”
Due to the population and the budget allocated to pay city employees in Merritt, Smith says there is often a high turnover of its staff to other cities where the pay is higher.
“Merritt can’t afford to pay what Penticton, Kamloops, or Kelowna pays, and if we are trying to compete, we are going to lose. Either the taxpayers are going to lose because of higher taxes or the city will lose out on high caliber individuals who don’t want to come here for lower wages without certain benefits.”
Smith says they understand that if the City of Merritt is going to be competitive with the higher wages larger cities are offering, they have to offer other incentives.
“Our employees are being headhunted in terms of their offers, so we need to come up with a package that will not affect taxpayers and will not hurt service levels.”
Additionally, Smith believes the change in operational hours will also benefit community members.
“Being open these later hours when people (community members) are not at work themselves, would provide a tangible benefit that in our opinion is likely going to at least equally weigh towards the additional day of closure,” he said.
“If you want to stop by City Hall before work, you can come and get great service; and if you want to come by after work, we will still be open and you will get great service.”
Smith adds that they will be looking into expanding the four-day work week to other departments within the City of Merritt “if the same service levels can be maintained.” He adds that those changes will be done in consultation with the union and the employees of those departments.
“There will be other business units that are looked at within this trial but, City Hall is the one that would result in fairly significant changes that would be public facing; which is why it’s the one that was put forward at council.”
Meanwhile, the four-day work week pilot will be reviewed at the six-month mark, to determine whether or not it is working effectively and areas where changes may be needed.