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Working for free

Unpaid overtime means you lose out big time
Hajera Blagg, Monday, February 29th, 2016

Workers in the UK are being cheated of more than £30bn in unpaid labour over the course of a year, a new TUC analysis has found.

More than five million people worked an average of 7.7 hours each week in unpaid overtime in 2015, which, the TUC says, amounts to each person having £6,114 stolen from their pockets each year if they were on the average wage.

While men worked 1.1bn extra hours unpaid each year and women worked 0.9bn extra hours, women were more likely to work unpaid overtime than men were.

Public sector workers clocked in unpaid overtime that amounted to nearly £11bn. Even though they represent only 25 per cent of the workforce, their contribution to the unpaid overtime bill added up to a full third.

Teachers and education professionals were the workers most likely to rack up unpaid overtime – more than half reported working more than 11 extra hours unpaid each week.

Unpaid overtime is rife
According to Unite’s own research, unpaid overtime in finance is rife – a recent Unite survey of 2,000 Royal Bank of Scotland workers found that 63 per cent work unpaid overtime on a daily basis, with 12 per cent of the workforce occasionally doing unpaid overtime. This equates to three in four workers not being paid for the hours they work.

Only 7 per cent of respondents said they take time off in lieu (TOIL) for the overtime they work, with 19 per cent reporting they either take TOIL in exchange or get paid for the occasional overtime they do. No staff stated they get paid for the overtime they do daily.

A separate Unite survey of HSBC staff found similar results – 68 per cent said they worked unpaid overtime each week, with 67 per cent reporting rising workloads to be the main factor and one in four saying they worked unpaid overtime because they felt pressure to do so.

The findings in Unite’s surveys are reflected in the TUC analysis as well, which found that workers in finance, after teachers, are most likely to do unpaid overtime.

The TUC conducted its analysis based on Labour Force Survey data from the July to September 2015, as it marked its 12th annual Work your Proper Hours Day last Friday (February 26) which aims to shed light on the issue of unpaid overtime.

The day is typically held on the day the average worker begins getting paid in the year if unpaid overtime is taken into consideration – meaning we typically work the first two months of the year for free.

“Too many workplaces tolerate a long-hours culture,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
“We do not want to turn Britain into a nation of clock watchers,” she said. “Few people mind putting in extra effort from time to time when it is needed, but it is too easy for extra time to be taken for granted and expected day in day out.”

“I would urge anyone worried about a long-hours culture in their workplace to join their union, to make sure they are represented and their voices are heard.”

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner agreed.

Bad for economy
“How is it that France works significantly fewer hours than we do here in the UK but their productivity levels are much higher? Working longer hours, unpaid, is not only patently unfair and a major cause of stress and other health problems – it’s actually bad for the economy, too.

“The key to a satisfied and more productive workforce is one that feels valued, which means being paid properly for hours you’ve worked and not being pressured into working beyond what’s set out in your contract,” he added. “But this won’t become a reality by magic – fighting an entrenched, long-hours culture needs people organised into a trade union in every workplace.

“Unions fought hard for a shorter working week, paid holidays and weekends off – these gains we now take for granted can always be clawed back if we aren’t vigilant,” Turner went on to say. “Under a government that’s taking aim at workers’ rights through the trade union Bill, while also creating an economy of low-wage, insecure jobs, joining a union now is more important than ever before.”

Are you interested in knowing how much your own unpaid overtime is worth? Find out using the TUC’s calculator here.


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