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Two million UK workers work two months for free


TUC, British workers, official statistics, unpaid overtime, Work Your Proper Hours Day, 28 February, Brexit, Working Hours Directive, Frances O'Grady, 2 billiob hoursToo many bosses are getting away with stealing their workers’ time.

UK employers claimed £35 billion of free labour last year because of workers’ doing unpaid overtime, according to new analysis of official statistics published last week by the TUC.

More than 5 million people put in an average of 7.6 hours a week in unpaid overtime during 2019.

On average, that’s equivalent to having £6,828 taken out of individual pay packets.

The TUC’s 16th annual Work Your Proper Hours Day – on 28 February in 2020 – is the day when the average person who does unpaid overtime finishes the unpaid days they do every year, and starts earning for themselves.

The TUC study reveals that men worked just over a billion unpaid overtime hours a year – 1,089 million hours – compared to 0.94 billion hours for women – 941 million hours.

While more than 1 in 6, 18.3 per cent, men work unpaid overtime, averaging 8.2 hours per week, 18.8 per cent of women put in unpaid hours.

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

Chief executives work the most unpaid hours on average each week: 12.5 hours, followed by teachers and educational professionals: 11.9 hours.

One in 4 public sector employees, 25 per cent, worked unpaid overtime, compared to around 1 in 6 employees in the private sector – 16.4 per cent.

Public sector workers contributed £13.2 billion of unpaid overtime last year, this although public sector employees make up just a quarter – 25.4 per cent – of total employees but produce more than a third 35.1 per cent of all unpaid overtime.

London relies most on free work, with almost 1 in 4 workers – 24 per cent – doing unpaid overtime, compared to the national average of fewer than one in five – 19 per cent.

Employees in London worked more than a third of a billion free hours – £385 million – last year.

The South East was next, with 22 per cent working unpaid overtime, while 19 per cent in the South West and 18 per cent in the Eastern Region and West Midlands are working free hours.

As Britain begins trade negotiations with the EU, the TUC is calling for UK workers’ rights – including the Working Time Directive – to be protected in any deal.

The TUC is also calling for any trade deal with the EU to maintain workers’ existing rights and establish a level playing field so that British workers’ rights do not fall behind those of other European workers.

The EU Working Time Directive was adopted by the UK in November 1998. It stipulates an average limit of 48 hours on maximum weekly working time, which is usually calculated over 17 weeks. There is an opt-out clause for individual workers, although the TUC has argued that this provision has been widely abused.

But Brexit-supporting politicians, including the prime minister, have repeatedly questioned the value of the Working Time Directive.

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

Long hours are not good for us. They cause stress; they are bad for our health; they wreck relationships; they make caring for children or dependents more difficult; and tired, burnt-out staff are bad for business.

The TUC’s General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “The government needs to crack down on Britain’s long hours culture. Too many bosses are getting away with stealing their workers’ time.

“But instead of strengthening protections, ministers want to use Brexit as an excuse to chuck out the limited protections we already have.

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

“That’s why any EU Trade deal needs to guarantee that employment rights, like those covered by the Working Time Directive, are protected in the future.”

So what might unpaid overtime be costing you?

The TUC built a calculator that shows you how much your salary would work out if you got paid your contracted rate for all the hours you actually put in.

Give it a go – though you might get a shock…

Click here to try the calculator.

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