UK employees worked £24bn worth of unpaid overtime last year

Experts urge employers to better manage staff workloads as increase in remote working blurs line between work and personal lives.

British workers collectively clocked up £24bn worth of unpaid overtime last year, according to research from unions, leading to calls for employers to better manage staff workloads.

Analysis by the TUC of data from the Labour Force Survey found that more than three million UK employees on average worked an extra 7.7 hours per week during 2020, equivalent to £7,300 per person in unpaid overtime.

The union added that the top 10 occupational groups for unpaid overtime were all roles that could be done from home, which Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said was evidence that remote working has led to work bleeding into home life.

The impact of working from home has been to increase unpaid hours worked,” she said. “As the UK begins to slowly exit from the pandemic, employers must support workers to balance work with their home lives, leisure and families. Ministers should help by bringing in new rights to flexible working for everyone.”

While the TUC said the number of employees working unpaid overtime actually fell compared to 2019, from five million down to three million, it said this could be accounted for by the number of people furloughed or reducing hours to pick up childcare responsibilities. The disruptions to working patterns caused by the coronavirus made 2020 “unique” and “not helpful for understanding long-term trends”, it added.

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