Half a million people in the South West last year gave their employers £4,500 worth of work for free, according to a TUC survey released today, the ninth annual Work Your Proper Hours Day.
The study of official figures shows that 447,063 workers in the region regularly put in six-and-a-half hours a week more than their contracted hours without getting paid for it.
Nigel Costley, regional secretary of the South West TUC, said: “Thousands of South West workers go above and beyond the call of duty each year to ensure their businesses and organisations stay afloat.
“This has especially been the case in the public sector where, in the face of large-scale job cuts, those staff remaining have had to put in even more unpaid overtime.
“While most staff don’t mind doing a few extra hours, working time needs to be properly managed or excessive hours can become a drag on the business. Employers shouldn’t be pressurising their staff into doing more for less.
“A significant part of the nearly two billion hours of unpaid overtime worked every year could be wiped out by smarter management practices, such as focusing on the work staff actually do rather than the time spent at their desks.
“Where employees regularly have excessive workloads, businesses should be considering whether a few more members of staff might help make everyone less stressed and more productive.
“A long-hours culture is bad for workers’ health and their family life – whether the hours are paid or not.”
Unpaid overtime is a regular feature for staff in some professions, with half of all financial managers, research and development managers, teachers, health and social services managers, lawyers and media professionals often putting in extra hours for free.
Back in 2005, the TUC launched Work Your Proper Hours Day – the day when the average person who does unpaid overtime would start to get paid if they did all their unpaid hours at the start of the year – to mark, in a light-hearted way, the extent of unpaid overtime across the UK.
In 2012 the number of people working unpaid overtime fell by 200,000 on the previous year, though the average amount of extra hours worked increased by six minutes to 7 hours 18 minutes.
The TUC analysis also shows a sharp rise in unpaid overtime amongst public sector employees, who are more likely to do extra hours for free than private sector staff.
While the number of public servants fell by around 100,000 last year, the amount of unpaid overtime worked in the public sector increased by nearly three per cent to around 620 million hours. Public sector job losses are putting an extra strain on the workloads of those still in work, says the TUC, which is likely to lead to more stress and anxiety.
The TUC is today calling on employers to mark Work Your Proper Hours Day by thanking their staff for the extra work they are doing to help keep organisations and businesses afloat.
The TUC also wants staff – and their managers – to take a proper lunch break and leave work on time today to show that it is possible to work your proper hours without hurting the business.
The TUC believes that while a lot of unpaid overtime is down to heavy workloads, which employers need to manage better, much of it is also down to pointless presenteeism – with staff judged on the hours spent at their desk rather than the work they do.
This workplace culture, as well as heightened fears about job security, often means that staff feel unable to leave on time, even if their work is complete, which leaves them with less time to spend with friends and family, says the TUC.
(from a press release)