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£32 billion worth of unpaid overtime last year in UK

28th February 2019

Photograph of £32 billion worth of unpaid overtime last year in UK

Workers in the UK put in more than £32 billion worth of unpaid overtime last year - TUC analysis.

More than 5 million UK workers put in a total of 2 billion unpaid hours in 2018

The average person doing unpaid overtime has worked the year so far for free

Employers must not steal their workers' time, TUC warns

UK companies claimed £32.7 billion of free labour last year because of workers' doing unpaid overtime, according to new analysis of official statistics published today (Friday) by the TUC.

More than 5 million people put in an average of 7.5 hours a week in unpaid overtime during 2018. On average, that's equivalent to having £6,532 taken out of individual pay packets.

Today is the TUC's 15th annual Work Your Proper Hours Day, marking the fact that the average person doing unpaid overtime has effectively worked the year so far for free.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

"It’s not okay for bosses to steal their workers’ time.

"Lots of us are willing to put in a few extra hours when it’s needed, but too many employers are taking advantage.

"Overworking staff hurts productivity, leaves workers’ stressed and exhausted and eats into time that should be spent with family and friends.

"Bosses who do steal people’s time should face consequences. So we’re calling for new rights to ensure that employers who break the rules on working time can be brought to employment tribunals."

To mark Work Your Proper Hours Day, the TUC is encouraging workers to take a proper lunch break and leave on time. Employers should adopt good practice and take steps to manage down unpaid overtime hours

Government should actively enforce statutory paid annual leave, rest breaks and the right not to work more than 48 hours a week on average. These rights should be enforceable both by complaint to a government enforcement agency and by taking a case to Employment Tribunal. This dual-channel system is already used to enforce the national minimum wage (NMW), which is a flagship policy. At the moment the system doesn’t work. For example, local authorities have sole responsibility for enforcing the 48 hour week in shops and offices, but they can do nothing because they have no resources for this role.

Government should target low-paid salary work for national minimum wage enforcement. Where employers require salaried staff to work extra hours, this time counts towards the NMW calculation.

Key findings

Gender: The TUC study reveals that men work just over a billion unpaid overtime hours a year, (1,048 million hours) compared to 0.9 billion hours for women (908 million hours). More than 1 in 6

(18.0%) men work unpaid overtime, averaging 8.0 hours per week. A similar percentage of women (18.4%) also put in unpaid hours.

Even though many women work part-time the average for those undertaking unpaid overtime is 7.0 hours a week.

Public sector: 1 in 4 public sector employees (25.3%) worked unpaid overtime, compared to around 1 in 6 employees in the private sector (15.8%) Public sector workers contributed £12.0 billion of unpaid overtime last year. Public sector employees make up just a quarter (25.2%) of total employees but produce more than a third (35.3%) of all unpaid overtime.

Occupations: teachers and educational professionals work the most unpaid hours on average each week (12.1 hours). Chief executives are close behind (11.4 hours per week), followed by legal professionals (10.2 hours), hospitality and catering managers (9.7 hours), functional managers such as financial, marketing, and personnel managers (9.2 hours) and retail, leisure financial institution and production managers (all 8.9 Hours).

Region London relies most on free work, with almost 1 in 4 workers (24.4%) doing unpaid overtime, (compared to the national average of fewer than one in five (18.2%).

Employees in London worked more than a third of a billion free hours (385 million) last year. The South East is next, with 20.3% working unpaid overtime, while 19.9% in the South West and 18.6% in the Eastern Region are working free hours. However, the 460,000 unpaid overtime workers in the North West have edged ahead when it comes to most unpaid hours each (8.0 hours per week, compared to the national average of 7.5 hours).

London is close behind, with unpaid overtime workers averaging 7.8 free hours per week, while unpaid overtime workers in Wales and the West Midlands both average 7.6 free hours a week.

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