Kuoni considers shift to four-day week to attract and retain staff

Kuoni will consider a four-day working week for shop staff in a move seen as a positive sign that large travel agency chains could mirror major non-travel retailers.

It comes as Althams Travel reports staff morale and retention have never been better since it trailblazed the concept in the industry two years ago.
At least six major non‑travel retailers in the UK have already made the switch or are trialling a four-day week for their shop staff.

Kuoni retail director Donna Hynes told the Travel Weekly People Summit the company would give “due consideration” to a four-day working week to ensure it was in the best position to grow, attract and retain talent.

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She said: “We’re keen to retain our position as one of the most progressive employers in the industry.”

Hynes said the 27-branch agency could learn from supermarkets that have made the switch.

“There are a few big retailers doing it very well, including M&S, Asda, Sainsbury’s and, in travel, Althams, where a five-day working week is compressed into four days,” she said.

“I could see this working very well in some of our busy late and longer-trading-hours shopping centres such as The Trafford Centre and being a success factor in peaks when demand spikes.”

She stressed Kuoni was in the “early stages of conversation” with its retail team and would need to undertake a full review.

Hynes added: “We’ll need time to expand on our conversations so we fully weigh up the practicalities before we implement anything new.”

C&M Travel Recruitment managing director Barbara Kolosinska urged firms to test the concept but admitted it was largely not “on the radar” across the sector.

“The fact Althams has done it and Kuoni is considering it is a really positive sign. Other travel companies should look at it because it will help retain and atttract staff and open up so many opportunities,” she said.

Althams Travel, which has 33 branches, endorsed the comments, describing its move to a four-day week in 2022 as an “overwhelming success”.

Salaries were retained but staff reduced their hours from five to four days with a 9.30am start. Althams recruited 12 extra employees to ensure branches had enough staff to run efficiently.

Managing director Sandra McAllister said not only had productivity and morale risen, but staff “actually want to work and are much happier in the workplace”. Retention was “better than all our previous records”, sickness days decreased and vacancies were being filled with “good, experienced staff”.

She said: “Costs to the business have been negligible but the overall benefits have been huge.”

But smaller high street agencies said they had no plans to change.

Seaside Travel brand manager Richard Lowrey-Heywood said: “We’re already very flexible and focused on people having a family life. We don’t open Sundays and we close at 3pm on Saturdays. We have staff working three, four and five days. Our model works.”

Polka Dot Travel director Mark Johnson agreed: “I do not understand the four-day concept; I think 99% of people would say the same, otherwise the rest of the high street would be on four-day weeks.”

Would you consider moving your business to a four-day week to retain staff? Email: juliet.dennis@travelweekly.co.uk

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