Are you overworked? If you’re doing unpaid overtime, you’re not alone. Figures published by the TUC claim that workers put in £32.7 billion worth of unpaid overtime in the UK last year. Five million employees put in an extra 7.5 working hours per week – the equivalent of £6,532 in unpaid wages annually for each worker.
Unpaid overtime is employee exploitation
These are huge figures, but with so many workers under pressure to stay late in order to complete an unreasonably excessive workload, or simply staying late because it’s the culture at the firm, it’s clearly exploitation. It’s a phenomenon that’s been around for decades and one that doesn’t seem to be getting any better. In fact, this year sees the 15th anniversary of the TUC’s ‘Work Your Proper Hours’ initiative.
Many studies have found that overwork is bad for both businesses and employees as it directly impacts on company productivity and causes stress, poor performance and increased absenteeism among workers. When a toxic working culture means that workers feel they should work late for free instead of spending time with family or friends, the problem is compounded, and this causes resentment towards the firm. After all, employees can be disciplined for stealing company property, so why aren’t employers penalised for stealing hours from workers?
As Frances O’Grady, General Secretary at the TUC, says:
‘Bosses who do steal people’s time should face consequences. So we’re calling for new rights to ensure that employers who break the rules on working time can be brought to employment tribunals.’
Employees aren’t taking the holidays that they’re due
It’s not just working unpaid hours that is the problem. While many workers, certainly in the private sector, who do unpaid overtime don’t even get the time in lieu that they’re entitled to, research by Glassdoor has found that only 43% of UK employees take all of their annual leave. More than 10% admitted to taking one-fifth or less. That means they’re working when they should be on paid leave.
Productivity, a fulfilling work life, mental health, the maintenance of good relationships outside the workplace and success at work are all dependent on employees achieving a sensible work-life balance. Otherwise, these individuals run a high risk of ‘burn out’. A survey from workplace community, Blind, confirms that, with 19.4% of tech employees citing overwork and another 17.5% citing a toxic work culture as the main causes of employee burnout in their workplace.
Is it time you moved to a company with better work-life policies?
Unfortunately, there is still no automatic right for the time in lieu, or extra pay, for an employee whose contract states that they may be required to work overtime. In the battle for the top talent, it’s organisations that value their employees’ well-being and address this issue that will win out. By introducing initiatives that prevent unreasonable workloads, minimise unpaid overtime, and make sure that workers benefit from their annual leave, companies will see the difference in productivity and, ultimately, their balance sheets.
If you think you might be spending too much time working for free, perhaps it’s time you looked for a firm with a better work-life policy. Start your job search over at Zoek today!