Unpaid overtime ‘vital to economy’
Workers in the UK gave bosses nearly two billion hours of unpaid overtime last year, or the equivalent of a million full-time jobs, the Trade Union Congress said.
Research showed the extra labour was worth £29.2 billion (€35.3 billion) to the UK economy, with London and workers in the South East doing the most unpaid work.
The figures from Labour Force Survey Summer Quarter 2011 found 5.3 million workers put in an average of 7.2 hours of unpaid overtime a week last year, worth around £5,300 (€6,4000) a year per person.
If workers who regularly put in unpaid overtime worked all their hours from the start of the year, the first day they would get paid would be February 24.
The TUC said this date would be its annual Work Your Proper Hours Day 2012 to highlight the issue.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The heroic amount of extra unpaid hours put in by millions of workers make a vital – but often unsung – contribution to the UK economy.”
Workers in London (26.9 per cent) and the South East (25 per cent) were still the most likely to work unpaid overtime. Workers in the West Midlands (up three per cent) and the North East (up 2.2 per cent) experienced the sharpest rise in the likelihood of working unpaid overtime over the past year, the TUC analysis said.
The number of workers doing unpaid overtime had increased by more than a million since records began in 1992, when 4.2 million people regularly did unpaid overtime, to 5.3 million people in 2011.
The proportion of workers doing unpaid overtime had also increased slightly, from 19.7 per cent in 1992 to 21.1 per cent in 2011.
The TUC said reducing the amount of unpaid overtime would not translate precisely into extra jobs.
It admitted many of the hours were a result of a British work culture of pointless presenteeism, but the organisation said persistent and excessive hours of unpaid overtime was holding back job creation.
Some employers were also forcing staff to work extremely long hours that could damage their health, when taking on extra employees would be far more productive and provide much needed jobs, it said.
“While many politicians and financial institutions have spectacularly failed to do their bit to help the UK economy, millions of hard-working staff clearly have and we hope employers congratulate them for their efforts on Work Your Proper Hours Day this year,” Mr Barber said.
“But while many of the extra unpaid hours worked could easily be reduced by changing work practices and ending the UK’s culture of pointless presenteeism, a small number of employers are exploiting staff by regularly forcing them to do excessive amounts of extra work for no extra pay.
“This attitude is not only bad for workers’ health, it’s bad for the economy too as it reduces productivity and holds back job creation.
“No-one wants to see us become a nation of clock-watchers. But a more sensible and grown up attitude to working time could cut out needless unpaid hours and help more people into work.”