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Half of UK employees regularly work unpaid hours, survey finds

Half of UK employees regularly work unpaid hours, survey finds

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Unpaid overtime appears to have become the norm in the UK, with new research revealing that millions of employees are regularly shortening their lunch breaks and finishing late to keep on top of their workload.

HR software provider, Ciphr, polled 1,000 UK workers to find out how much unpaid overtime, if any, they each worked on average. According to the findings, there are significantly more employees who work unpaid hours than employees who receive overtime pay (49% compared to 23%).

Among those who do regularly work unpaid overtime, the average time clocked up each week is just over three hours (184 minutes). Over a five-day work week, that’s around 37 minutes extra per shift.

Around one in nine (11%) of those surveyed are posting five additional, unpaid hours a week.

The employees most likely to work the longest extra hours unpaid include senior managers (averaging 4.1 hours a week), 25-34-year-olds (3.5 hours), remote workers (3.5 hours) and those working in legal services and education (4.1 hours and 3.9 hours respectively).

While many people – particularly salaried employees – typically expect, and accept, a certain degree of unpaid work as being part of their role, few may be aware of the full extent of how those extra minutes (over and above contracted hours) can add up when unpaid work is done too frequently.

For example, most people would probably agree that working the equivalent of 18 additional days (over 139 hours) a year for free seems excessive. Yet, that’s what the average employee in Ciphr’s survey is likely to work, if they continue to put in three hours of unpaid overtime every week as reported.

Shortening or skipping lunch appears to be one of the most common ways that employees overwork. In the week that Ciphr ran its survey, only a third (36%) of respondents had taken their full lunch break every day. Worryingly, as many as one in four (23%) had barely taken their full lunch break off that week at all.

If this pattern of overworking, through breaks and after hours, is left unchecked long-term, it could negatively impact an individual’s health and well-being and cause stress and job burnout. It could also lead to employee resentment, especially if the unpaid overtime that is being worked isn’t being done voluntarily or doesn’t feel very voluntary due to big workloads, understaffing or unrealistic targets.

To help prevent overworking, it’s important to track how many extra minutes a day are actually being worked. Ciphr has devised a handy unpaid hours calculator, which employees can use to estimate how much time (and how many work days) they are potentially working in unpaid overtime a year.

Claire Williams, Chief People Officer at Ciphr, said: “If an individual thinks they are doing too many unpaid hours, then it’s vital that they address this with their employer as soon as possible. Doing a bit of extra work occasionally is one thing – and it is relatively common practice to work additional hours, at times, to fulfil your role – but feeling like you ‘have’ to do that extra work regularly because it is being expected of you is quite another.”

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