Millions of Britons work unpaid overtime in crunch

Thu Jan 8, 2009 5:38am EST
 
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Five million Britons worked unpaid overtime last year because of a "long-hours" culture and concern that the economic downturn was putting their jobs at risk.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said the number of people working hours they were not paid for was at the highest level since 1992 and that the value of the work was 26.9 billion pounds ($40.53 billion).

It said if workers were paid for the extra hours, they would receive on average an additional 5,139 pounds a year.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said the figures, up for the second year, were disappointing.

"While some of this is due to the long-hours culture that still dogs too many British workplaces, the recession will now be making many people scared of losing their job in the year ahead and joining the ever-growing dole-queue," he said.

"Inevitably people will be putting in extra hours if they think it can help protect against redundancy or keep their employer in business."

The TUC argued that if everyone who worked overtime did all the overtime work at the start of the year, the first day they would get paid for would be February 27.

The largest increase in workers carrying out unpaid overtime occurred in London, followed by the east Midlands and eastern England. There was better news for those in southeast England and Scotland where fewer people were working unpaid extra hours.

"Long hours are bad for people's health, and employers should never forget that each extra hour worked makes people less productive once they are over a sensible working week," Barber said.

(Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Casciato)