More than one in four SME owners are working more than 50 hours a week with significant numbers putting in 60 hours a week or more, new research from MetLife Employee Benefits shows.

MetLife’s nationwide survey of companies employing up to 250 staff shows the average hours worked a week by their owners is a standard 37 and a half hours.

However 28% estimate they work 50 hours or more with 15% saying they put in 60 hours a week including working at weekends, the study found.

The long hours are not reflected in days off ill – on average SME owners estimate they take around 3.7 days off a year which is below the national average of 4.4 days recorded by Government statistics.

MetLife Employee Benefits’ research shows nearly two out of three (64%) SME owners say they have not taken a day off ill in the past year while only seven per cent have taken longer than three working weeks off through illness.

The study was conducted as part of the research for the launch of MetLife’s innovative ProActive Protection policy which helps companies and their owners to prevent absences becoming a major issue and enable staff to return to work earlier.

Tom Gaynor, Employee Benefits Director of MetLife UK said: “SME owners put in long hours to ensure their businesses are a success and many clearly feel they cannot afford to take time off or to cut back on their working hours without causing disruption to their firm.

“Working long hours can however in the long run lead to health issues and it makes sense to prevent absences before they become a major problem through improving health and wellness.