In a recent report by the TUC, found that over one in five workers (21%) regularly worked unpaid overtime last year, an increase of 0.7 percentage points since 2009 and the highest proportion since 1997.
Public sector workers are the most likely to do unpaid overtime, with over one in four (26.3%) regularly putting in more than seven hours of unpaid overtime a week, compared to around one in six workers in the private sector (18.9%).
Workers in London are most likely to work unpaid overtime (27.8%), followed by the South East (25.3 %) and the East of England (23.7%).
Of those workers who do unpaid overtime, Londoners work the most free hours (eight per week), followed by those in the East Midlands (7.5 hours) and the North East and Scotland (both 7.4 hours).
According to the TUC, the increasing amount of unpaid overtime worked is likely to be a symptom of tough economic conditions, low recruitment activity and rising unemployment, with staff having to pick up new work as well as the work left over by colleagues who have been made redundant.
The TUC is calling on bosses to recognise the extra free hours that staff put in and for everyone, including managers, to work their proper hours today by taking a decent lunch break and leaving work on time.
TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, said:
“With tough economic conditions making employers reluctant to recruit, existing staff are picking up much of the increasing work load through unpaid hours.
“While most staff are happy to put in some extra free time to help their company through, forcing staff to endlessly put in too many hours could lead to increased stress levels, which can make staff ill and reduce the quality of the work they do.
“Public sector workers – already experiencing a sharp cut in their earnings as they have their pay frozen and pension contributions raised – will be understandably upset about the amount of extra unpaid work they are expected to do with the threat of redundancy looming over them.
“Work Your Proper Hours Day is a light-hearted campaign and today is an opportunity for bosses to thank staff for going that extra mile.
“But there is a serious side to excessive overtime, irrespective of whether staff get paid for it. Bosses should always be on the lookout for a damaging long hours culture in their workplace and take steps to protect their workforce.”