New analysis by the TUC reveals the extent of unpaid overtime with employees putting in £24 billion worth of free labour over the last year. 

According to new research by the Trades Unions Congress (TUC), UK employers claimed £24 billion worth of free labour over the last twelve months due to the amount of employees undertaking unpaid overtime.

In 2020 and extending into 2021, over three million workers in the UK completed unpaid overtime which roughly works out to putting in an average of 7.7 unpaid hours a week.

When calculating how this time would correlate to salary, the TUC found that this would be equivalent to £7,300 a year of wages going unpaid for work done.

However, the TUC did warn that figures obtained over the pandemic are not indicative of longer-term trends, citing disruption to work patterns as a significant driving factor in creating unique figures.

Despite the enormous amount of overtime that was completed by employees over the course of the pandemic, unpaid overtime was actually higher in 2019.

This pattern is explained by the TUC as resulting from the number of workers who were either furloughed or reduced their hours to care for children during the pandemic. It stated that this caused a significant fall in the number of employees doing unpaid overtime and the amount and financial value of unpaid hours worked.

In addition, the analysis also found that workers who were likely to do the highest amount of unpaid overtime were those who were able to do their job remotely. Finding a lack of balance between working responsibilities and home duties, the TUC found that the extra hours completed was due to the blending of these two worlds.

London had the highest proportion of workers doing unpaid overtime, with 15 per cent of workers (one in six workers) doing so. This compares to one in eight nationally (12.1 per cent).

Overall, Managers and Directors featured prominently as occupations which worked the most unpaid hours, suggesting that the additional responsibilities of senior staff are not being properly managed by employers.

As such, the TUC are calling for specific changes to be announced in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget this week, including:

  • Cancelling the pay freeze for public sector – The TUC state that this is not aptly rewarding key workers and will reduce consumer spending with a £1.7 billion hit to the economy
  • Raising the minimum wage – According to the TUC, this should be increased to £10 per hour
  • Filling vacancies in essential services – In particular, focussing on public services such as the NHS and social care
  • Bringing forward the Employment Bill which would strengthen protections for workers

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

The impact of working from home has been to increase unpaid hours worked. 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. And everyone should make sure that they end their shift and log off on time on Work Your Proper Hours Day.

Ms. O’Grady continued:

We should thank the key workers who put in extra hours without any extra pay. At the Budget, the chancellor should cancel the pay freeze and give every key worker a decent pay rise. It is what they have earned.

And he should unlock the 600,000 public sector job vacancies and gaps that currently exist. That’s an easy way to cut unemployment, reduce burnout among key workers and get our public services back on their feet.


*This TUC analysis is based on ONS Labour Force Survey data covering July-Sep 2020. The TUC uses the Jul-Sep quarter to calculate unpaid overtime rates every year on Work Your Proper Hours Day. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant more variation than usual in the labour market over the course of the year. More recent data (Sep-Nov 2020) shows numbers of workers doing unpaid overtime increasing, along with the number of unpaid overtime hours they each do.