Most civil servants feel obliged to work overtime – and many will check emails during summer holidays

Written by Richard Johnstone on 3 August 2017 in News

Workload survey shows civil service careers are becoming synonymous with low pay and long hours

Around three-quarters of civil servants feel obliged to work additional hours, while more than one-quarter also say they will check emails and respond to calls during annual leave this summer, a poll by trade union Prospect has found.

The survey of nearly 3,000 civil servants who are members of the union – which represents professionals, managers and specialists across government – found that almost 60% of staff worked excess hours every week. A further 17% said they regularly worked excess hours at least every month.

The poll found that on average staff worked more than nine additional hours a week, the equivalent of more than an additional working day every week. The figure is above the average of seven hours unpaid overtime a week estimated for central government workers in the GMB trade union’s analysis of Office for National Statistics figures.


In addition, Prospect found that 40% of respondents checked emails or responded to telephone calls at weekends and on rest days, while over a quarter planned to check e-mails and respond to calls while on annual leave.

Garry Graham, Prospect’s deputy general secretary for public services, told Civil Service World the results were “not surprising but are deeply worrying”.

He added: “Working in the civil service is becoming synonymous with low pay and long hours and there is increased evidence of stress and burnout in employees.

“Ministers and senior officials need to wake up to the stress and pressure the civil service is under. The most recent People Survey for the civil service indicated that 42% of staff were struggling to achieve an acceptable work-life balance with three-quarters believing they would be better rewarded dong similar jobs elsewhere.

“There is a fundamental mismatch between resources and workload.”

The poll also found that a majority of respondents believed their organisation had a problem with excessive hours and workload, which was also a key reason citied for people being unable to take annual leave.

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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