Exclusive: UK employees work £4.2bn in unpaid overtime every week as free labour soars during pandemic
The amount of unpaid overtime that each UK worker is doing has jumped to an average of eight hours per week during the pandemic, according to a new study.
The ADP Research Institute’s People at Work 2021 study, seen by City A.M., found that UK employees are working two hours more unpaid overtime per week than in 2019.
The UK weekly total is an hour more than the European average of 6.7, equalling over £8,000 annually per employee.
Across Britain’s workforce, £219bn of free labour is being worked per year, due to employees not taking breaks and starting early or finishing late for no additional pay.
“Action is needed to shift the focus from quantity of hours worked to quality of output while giving staff sufficient downtime to recharge and spend time with their families,” said Jeff Phipps, managing director at ADP.
“And if overtime is essential, employers must ensure that the additional hours are both rewarded and recognised effectively.”
Covid the catalyst?
One in four UK employees are giving away more than 10 hours per week for free, up from one in five before the pandemic.
The demanding nature of the Covid crisis means essential workers have put in more unpaid overtime than non-essential workers – at 8.9 hours per week compared to 6.9 for the latter.
This number rises exponentially in the younger age bracket, with 18 to 24-year-olds working an average of 9.35 hours unpaid.
“We know that employees perform well when they are engaged, healthy and motivated, with fair and transparent compensation for their efforts,” Phipps said.
“The high levels of unpaid overtime will only leave employees at risk of burnout, with negative long-term impacts for both productivity and performance.”
Hybrid working means more unpaid labour
The effects of remote working on overtime cannot be ignored, with those working from home putting in an average of 8.1 hours unpaid labour per week, compared to 7.1 hours for on-site employees.
However, those taking a hybrid approach by combining home and on-site working, believe they are doing the most of all, at 9.21 hours.
Interestingly, both remote and hybrid workers found maintaining productivity more challenging than those visiting the workplace.
“Stagnating productivity is a huge challenge in the UK, yet employers are still fostering a culture of long hours and presenteeism, despite evidence that it doesn’t work,” Phipps added.
“It is the role of leaders and managers to adapt to the ever-changing work landscape and set realistic objectives for employees while ensuring they have the resources to reach them within contracted hours.”