UK Workers Unpaid: TUC Analysis Reveals £26 Billion Worth of Uncompensated Overtime in the Last Year

Photo Credits - Bannon Morrissy via Unsplash

On Work Your Proper Hours Day last month, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) released its annual analysis on unpaid overtime. The day was commemorated by encouraging employees to finish their work on time and managers to allocate reasonable workloads. This past year, it was reported that workers in the UK are doing £26 billion worth of uncompensated overtime.

Compared to the previous year, improvements are seen in the context of unpaid overtime. However, there is more to be done to further support UK workers. Additionally, there are changes expected to come in place in the UK which will pose further challenges to employment.

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Findings of the TUC Analysis

Although the number of employees doing unpaid overtime has lowered since 2021, it was not a significant amount. In 2021, it was reported that there were 3.8 million individuals working unpaid overtime compared to 3.5 million in 2022. Further, the years before 2021 saw increases which have caused difficulty in predicting future long-term numbers.

In terms of professions, like in previous years, teachers remain as one of the top ones to do unpaid overtime. In terms of management, directors and managers are also at the top of the list. From this, it can be understood that senior staff with added responsibilities are still facing employers who are improperly managing them.

Sector-wise, unpaid overtime is seen more in the public sector. Compared to the private sector where only 1 in 9 or 11.7% of workers did unpaid overtime, the public sector has a rate of 1 in 7 workers or 14.8%. Further noted in the analysis, the government has admitted having received £8.6 billion worth of unpaid overtime last year.

Nationally, 12.5% of workers did unpaid overtime last year. Among the regions, the highest proportion of workers doing unpaid overtime is in London with a rate of 16.7%.

Overtime Rights in the UK

According to the UK government, employees can only work overtime if it is stated in their contract with their employer. If it is permitted on the contract, employees may not be forced to work over 48 hours per week on average. However, it is possible to sign a written waiver to allow employees to work longer.

In terms of pay, employers are not legally required to pay for overtime. However, the average pay for the total number of hours worked must not be under the National Minimum Wage.

Expected Changes in the Law

Since Brexit, EU-derived legislation will be revoked in the UK according to the retained EU law bill that is currently in the House of Lords. EU-derived legislation has provided protections in working time in the UK, which will no longer be in place at the end of this year.

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This means protections such as maximum weekly working hours, rest breaks and rest periods between shifts and paid annual leave are under threat. There is a possibility that ministers will decide to keep these protections in place, but there are no guarantees yet.

This raises a possible challenge that will be faced by UK workers next year. As there are no set regulations in place, organisations such as the Institute of Directors and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development are calling for the retained EU law bill to be scrapped.


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