Author Profile Picture

Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more about Cath Everett

Unpaid overtime saves employers £29.2bn each year


One in five workers regularly work unpaid overtime saving employers a huge £29.2 billion per year, with older workers and long-servers by far the most likely to offer their services for free.

According to an analysis of official government figures undertaken by the TUC to mark ‘Work Your Proper Hours Day’, some 5.3 million people consistently put in an average of 7.2 hours of unpaid work each week last year, which is valued at about £5,300 per person per annum.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Around one in five workers regularly do unpaid overtime, but it’s becoming the norm in far too many workplaces. Whilst most people have no objection to putting in some extra hours to help their employer through a busy period, an entrenched long hours culture causes stress, health problems and lower morale.”
As a result, he called on employers to support ‘Work Your Proper Hours Day’ by encouraging their staff to take a proper lunch break and leave work on time.
The research indicated that there were sharp age disparities in terms of how many hours workers were prepared to put in, however. The proportion of employees in their early 20s doing unpaid hours has fallen by 36% over the last decade, while the number of those in their early 60s doing so has jumped by 45% or about quarter of a million people, driven by fears of loss of income.
But workers in their late 30s were still the most likely to do extra work for free, with just over one in four of this age bracket (26.6%) regularly going down this route.
The likelihood of someone doing unpaid overtime also increased the longer that they were in the job. Staff who had been in post for at least 10 years were twice as likely (25%) to work hours for free than those who had been working for less than a year (12.5%).
The most likely professions to put in unpaid hours, meanwhile, are teachers, followed by media professionals and managers working in financial services, health or social services.
***In news elsewhere, the latest data from pay specialists XpertHR revealed that the upward trend in private sector pay settlements first seen last December has continued.
The median pay rise in the three months to the end of January was 2.5%, up from 2.3% in the same period a year ago. Some 46% of the awards came in at 3% or above, however, with 3% being the most common figure.
The news came as council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were told that they would have their pay frozen for a third consecutive year.
Author Profile Picture
Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

Get the latest from HRZone

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.