24 Feb 2012: Work Your Proper Hours Day

Britons did a whopping two billion hours of unpaid overtime last year – worth a record £29.2 billion to the UK economy. Or put another way, that's roughly equivalent to a million extra full-time jobs. This means that this year's Work Your Proper Hours Day falls on Friday 24 February. If workers who regularly put in unpaid overtime worked all their hours from the start of the year, the 24th Feb is first day they would get paid. 

Whilst reducing the amount of unpaid overtime would not translate precisely into extra jobs (for starters, a huge amount of this time is a result of a British work culture of pointless and unproductive presenteeism) we're concerned that persistent and excessive hours of unpaid overtime are holding back job creation, as well as hurting the people who end up working late day after day. Rather than forcing staff to work extremely long hours that damage their health, taking on a few extra employees would in many cases be far more productive for employers, as well as providing much needed jobs.

Overall, the number of workers doing unpaid overtime has increased by more than a million since records began in 1992, when 4.2 million people regularly did unpaid overtime, to 5.3 million people in 2011. The proportion of those doing unpaid overtime has also increased slightly, from 19.7% in 1992 to 21.1% in 2011. The TUC's Brendan Barber said:

“The heroic amount of extra unpaid hours put in by millions of workers make a vital – but often unsung – contribution to the UK economy. While many politicians and financial institutions have spectacularly failed to do their bit to help the UK economy, millions of hard-working staff clearly have and we hope employers congratulate them for their efforts on Work Your Proper Hours Day this year. “But while many of the extra unpaid hours worked could easily be reduced by improving work practices, a small number of employers are exploiting staff by regularly forcing them to do excessive amounts of extra work for no extra pay. This attitude is not only bad for workers’ health, it’s bad for the economy too as it reduces productivity and holds back job creation. “No-one wants to see us to become a nation of clock-watchers. But a more sensible and grown up attitude to working time could cut out needless unpaid hours and help more people into work.”