Long hours and heavy workloads a growing problem for civil servants – union survey

FDA union calls for civil servants to be paid for all overtime, as survey shows an increase in the number of officials working above their contracted hours

By Suzannah Brecknell

12 May 2016

Nearly eight in every ten civil servants believe that long hours are a problem in their department, according to a new survey carried out by the FDA union.

One in ten respondents said they are working an additional 15 hours above their contracted hours every week and and 59% are working more than six hours extra each week.

The problem appears to be growing. When the FDA – which represents senior officials – last asked its members about these issues in 2012, 51% said they worked more than six hours extra every week, and 64% believed long hours working was a problem in their department.

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Ahead of the FDA's annual conference in London today, general secretary Dave Penman said the survey showed government had failed in its duty of care to employees.

“Unrealistic expectations, increasing workloads, and the detrimental effect on family relationships are all reported in the survey," he said.

“This is not only damaging to public servants, but also puts at risk the vital public services that they deliver.”

The survey also showed that an increasing number of civil servants feel their employers are failing to address the issue of excess working hours.

The proportion of respondents who did not believe sufficient steps have been taken to address this issue was 72%, up from 65% in 2012.

Penman added that: “70% of employers don’t even record the additional hours worked, masking the reality of the endless salami-slicing of civil service resources.

“Despite its promises otherwise, the government’s Single Departmental Plans – published belatedly in February – failed abysmally to address any sense of priorities. These were nothing more than wish lists of policy commitments, with no detail on delivery or resources.

“That’s why the FDA is today calling on every civil service employer to compensate every member of staff for every hour worked. Unless the government faces a cost for its failure to deliver the right resources, it won’t address the high cost being paid by its own employees to mask those deficiencies.”

In 2016, more than half (52%) of respondents to the FDA survey said they did not take all their holidays last year, with 65% of these people citing heavy workloads as the reason they could not take leave.

In 2012, 49% of respondents could not take all their annual leave in the previous year, and 54% blamed heavy workloads.

The FDA also asked its members whether they would like to be able to buy or sell a proportion of their annual leave each year – 55% answered yes.

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