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British Staff Worked £31bn of Unpaid Overtime in 2018

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UK employees put in £31bn worth of unpaid overtime last year, new research from the TUC estimates.

Five million British workers worked more than seven hours a week of free overtime in 2017, worth an estimated £6,265 per employee, the study by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), a UK-based trade unions federation, found.

Londoners lost the most in uncontracted hours, with just under 900,000 employees – 25% of London workers – racking up an average of 7.6 hours a week, or £8,646 per worker, according to the analysis of (ONS) data.

Long-hours culture ‘isn’t working’, say unions

The amount of hours worked for free means that, prior to February 23rd, British workers were effectively working for nothing.

The TUC urged British employees to work their contracted hours and to take a lunch break.

“Lots of us are willing to put in a bit of extra time when it’s needed. But it’s a problem if it happens all the time,” said the TUC’s general secretary Frances O’Grady. “So today we’re saying to workers, make sure you take a proper lunch break and go home on time.

“We’re asking managers to leave on time too. Good bosses know that a long-hours culture doesn’t get good results. And the best way to lead is by example.”

CEOs the biggest losers

Chief executives and teachers lost the most in unpaid overtime, with CEOs racking up 14 hours and education professionals 12.5 hours a week, while legal professionals lost on average 9.6 hours a week in unpaid work.

Workers in their 40s were more likely to do unpaid overtime, with 23.4% of staff in this age group doing so compared with 18.4% (one in five) of UK workers prepared to work for free.

Despite the gender pay gap, little difference in the amount of unpaid overtime was seen between the sexes.

Public sector staff ‘at risk of burning out’, says Unison

While public sector employees make up 25% of the overall UK workforce, they contributed nearly 40% of total unpaid overtime, researchers found.

Christina McAnea, assistant general secretary of Unison, a public sector union, said: “Public sector staff regularly work through their breaks and go home late, because they’re dedicated to the patients, students and local people who rely on them.

“But expecting employees to work above and beyond the call of duty, day in day out, is simply not on.

“With staffing shortages and wages failing to rise with the cost of living, morale in our public services is already at rock bottom. Overstretched and under-appreciated staff are at risk of burning out or giving up on a career in the public sector altogether.

“While managers need to ensure that staff work their proper hours, the Government needs to give public sector workers the decent pay rise they all deserve.”

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Alvexo on the matter.