East of England workers put in £2.3 billion worth of unpaid overtime during the pandemic

East of England workers put in £2.3 billion worth of unpaid overtime during the pandemic

East England employers claimed £2.3 billion of free labour last year because of workers’ doing unpaid overtime, according to new analysis published today (Friday) by the TUC.

Today is the TUC’s 17th annual Work Your Proper Hours Day. On this day, workers are encouraged to finish shifts on time. And managers are encouraged to support staff by setting reasonable workloads and with workplace policies that protect against burnout.

Main findings and impact of the pandemic

Across the UK, more than three million people did unpaid overtime in 2020, putting in an  average of 7.7 unpaid hours a week. That’s equivalent to £7,300 of annual wages going unpaid for work done.

In East England, 12.8% of employees did unpaid overtime, averaging 7.9 hours per week. That’s equivalent to £6,900 a year of wages going unpaid. (see Table 3 in the notes)

With many workers furloughed or reducing their working hours to care for children, the number of hours worked in the economy has fallen. This is reflected in significantly lower numbers of workers doing unpaid overtime, and the amount and financial value of unpaid hours worked.

As in previous years, teachers are high on the list. The challenges of keeping schools open for the children of key workers, while providing home learning too, has kept up their work intensity. Managers and directors feature strongly, suggesting that the additional responsibilities of senior staff are not properly managed by employers.

Protecting and thanking key workers

The TUC analysis estimates that key workers in East England have collectively contributed £700 million of unpaid overtime in the last year.

The TUC is calling on the government to cancel the pay freeze affecting 2.7m public sector key workers.

The union body says that key workers have earned a decent pay rise for putting in long and tough hours to keep the country going during the pandemic.

If key workers get a decent pay rise, the boost to consumer spending will help our businesses and high street recover, and this will help many other workers get a pay rise too.

The TUC is calling for action in the Budget to:

  • Cancel the pay freeze: The government is planning to freeze the pay this year of 2.7 million public sector staff. This is no way to thank key workers. And by holding down pay, consumer spending will be reduced with a £1.7 billion hit to the England economy. The pay freeze should be cancelled.
  • Raise the minimum wage: The chancellor should commit to raising the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour, improving the pay of 3.6 million key workers.
  • Fill vacancies in essential services: Many public services are understaffed. The NHS and social care services have the worst shortfalls, lacking 220,000 workers in total. The Chancellor should provide funding to unlock these vital jobs. This would reduce pressures leading current staff to work unpaid hours.

The TUC is also calling on the government to quickly bring forward the long-promised employment bill and strengthen protections against overwork and burnout.

TUC Regional Secretary Sam Gurney said:

“Over the last year, many workers in East England have put in huge amounts of unpaid overtime to keep the country going. And they have kept businesses and public services afloat.

“We should thank the key workers who put in extra hours without any extra pay. At the Budget, the chancellor should cancel the pay freeze and give every key worker a decent pay rise. It is what they have earned.

“And he should unlock the public sector job vacancies and gaps that currently exist. That’s an easy way to cut unemployment, reduce burnout among key workers and get our public services back on their feet.”

Visit the TUC website for more information


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