Analysis says pointless presenteeism is party to blame for long hours culture

Tim Lezard

WYPHDHalf of all teachers, legal professionals, and finance managers regularly do unpaid overtime, according to analysis published by the TUC today on this, the ninth annual Work Your Proper Hours Day.

The study of official figures shows that across the UK one in five workers regularly does around seven hours a week more than their contracted hours without getting paid for it.

However, 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.

Last year five million UK workers regularly put in extra hours for free – worth over £5,600 a year per person to their employer. The 1.8bn hours of unpaid overtime worked across the UK in 2012 added £28.3bn to the economy.

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.

Londoners are the most likely to do most unpaid overtime, with over one in four (26.1 per cent) workers in the capital regularly putting in extra unpaid shifts, compared to a national average of 20.2 per cent. Londoners also do more unpaid hours ­than anyone else – around eight and a half hours a week – which is worth £9,000 per person a year to employers in the capital.

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.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Millions of UK 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.”

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said:  “It comes as no surprise that teachers work more hours in unpaid overtime than almost any other workers. Teachers’ commitment to their job is unquestionable, yet government continues its onslaught of attacks on a profession which is manifestly overworked.

“A recent YouGov survey, commissioned by the NUT, showed that teacher morale is dangerously low. This should come as no surprise. Issues of pay, pensions, punitive Ofsted inspection and a raft of accountability and assessment measures are making teachers’ jobs increasingly stressful. Instead of criticism, the government should be praising and supporting a profession which, for little reward, is one of the hardest working in the country.

“NUT members alongside the NASUWT have been taking action short of strike action in order to ease the unnecessary bureaucratic burden which occupies so much of teachers’ time. In the coming weeks the NUT will be looking at how to take its campaign against the erosion of teachers’ pay, pensions and working conditions forward. If the Education Secretary does not stop his systematic undermining of our profession the NUT will take action to defend teachers in whichever way is necessary, including strike action.”

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Today’s figures confirm that our teachers and lecturers continue to go above and beyond the call of duty. While the government cuts resources, staff continue to deliver for their students, despite the worrying increase of their workloads.

“This simply is not sustainable and the government cannot continue to expect more for less. Long working hours impact on staff and students and on the education students receive.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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