Public sector and London-based workers doing most unpaid overtime

Nearly five million employees are work some hours for free, with almost 40% unpaid work done by public servants


By Tamsin Rutter

26 Feb 2018

Senior civil servants fit the profile for the type of worker doing the most unpaid overtime in the UK, new research has revealed.

Figures released by the Trades Union Congress last week showed that a higher proportion of public sector staff worked unpaid hours than their private sector counterparts in 2017, while workers in London and in more senior roles were also more likely to put in extra hours for free.

Public sector employees accounted for 39% of the two billion hours of unpaid overtime worked by UK staff last year despite representing just 25% of the workforce.


According to the TUC analysis of unpublished Office for National Statistics data, employees in their 40s are the most likely to do unpaid overtime (23.4% of them, compared with 18.4% of all workers).

Chief executives work the most unpaid hours at 14.1 on average per week, followed by teachers and education professionals (12.5 hours), legal professionals (9.6), production managers (9.5), functional managers such as financial, marketing, and personnel managers (8.8), transport and logistics managers, and welfare professionals and hospitality and leisure managers (both 8.6 hours).

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, pointed out that public sector workers were having to work longer hours for less money, given the government’s policy of pay restraint.

She said: “Public sector workers are more likely to work extra hours unpaid. It’s a mark of how dedicated our public servants are – and it’s kept our schools and hospitals running through years of funding cuts.

“But public service workers have also had eight years of real pay cuts, so they are being forced to do more for less. It’s time the government gave them the fully-funded pay rise they have earned.”

O’Grady called on managers to consider how to move away from a reliance on unpaid overtime. “Good bosses know that a long-hours culture doesn’t get good results. And the best way to lead is by example,” she said.

On Friday, 23 February, the union marked the day when the average person doing unpaid overtime had effectively worked the year so far for free.

Almost five million people in the UK do unpaid overtime, working on average 7.4 hours each week for free. That effectively equates to lost income of £6,265 per person, according to the TUC figures.

London has the largest number of employees working unpaid overtime, at almost 880,000, followed by the south east, at just over 835,000 people. Just under a quarter of the entire workforce in London and the south east regularly do unpaid overtime.

The research is consistent with a review of ONS working hour data by the GMB trade union last year, which found that 17% of central government workers were regularly working unpaid overtime, at an average of 6.9 hours a week.

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