UK employees work 7.8 hours per week of unpaid overtime

Five million employees work £35 billion worth of unpaid overtime a year

New data has found that UK employees currently work an average of 7.8 hours per week of unpaid overtime, almost a full hour more than the European average of 6.7.

A study by the ADP Research Institute titled People at work 2021: a global workforce view revealed that the cost of the extra hours totals more than £8,000 annually per person, which equates to £219 billion a year across the working population. The overtime includes working over breaks and starting early or staying late regularly for no additional pay.

One in four UK employees work more than 10 hours per week for free, which is up from one in five before the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic in 2019. Essential staff worked more unpaid overtime than non-essential staff, at 8.9 hours per week on average compared to 6.9 hours, while 18-24-year-olds carried out an average of 9.35 hours for free and those in the media and information industries did 13.5 hours per week unpaid.

Additionally, 61% of employees in Chile were most likely to receive a pay rise or bonus for taking on additional responsibilities due to Coronavirus-related job losses, compared to 56% in Brazil and 54% in Argentina. Nearly seven in 10 (68%) staff who took on a new role or new responsibilities received a pay rise or a bonus for their efforts.

Jeff Phipps, managing director at ADP UK, commented that employees perform well when they are engaged, healthy and motivated, and that high levels of unpaid overtime will only leave employees at risk of burnout, with negative long-term impacts for both productivity and performance.

“Action is needed to shift the focus from quantity of hours worked to quality of output while giving staff sufficient downtime to recharge and spend time with their families. And if overtime is essential, employers must ensure that the additional hours are both rewarded and recognised effectively,” he said.

The ADP Research Institute surveyed 32,471 workers in 17 countries worldwide, including over 8,567 working in the gig economy.