HR · 1 February 2017

Late nights and al desko lunches: The unpaid hours of UK employees

Unpaid hours
The hours were clocked up after employees spent time in the office after hours, worked through lunch and took phone calls at home

Three-quarters of UK employees are working 180 unpaid hours every year outside of their contract, according to a new study.

The research, undertaken by printer reseller Printerland, broke unpaid hours down into three areas – working through lunch time, at home and staying late in the office.

A fifth of workers would leave a family dinner to take a work call, while a third admitted that they were even unable to switch off from their jobs on holiday.

Two-thirds of employees claimed that they worked late at least once a week, totalling 51 unpaid hours per year.

However, it was at lunchtime when employees put in the most unpaid hours. On average, British workers spent 93 hours every year working through lunch breaks, while just over half admitted to staying within office walls for the entire day.

Although reporting higher levels of job satisfaction than employees of larger companies, small firm staff committing too many unpaid hours and overworking may be harming productivity and concentration levels in normal contracted time.

Commenting on the research, Catherine Bannan, HR manager at Printerland, warned of the negative impact on productivity from unpaid hours.

“It’s one thing to work an extremely long day with extra hours once every now and again in order to meet a deadline or deal with a crisis, but it’s another story to make a routine out of staying late,” she said.

“Overworking can result in tiredness and mistakes being made, as well as having severely negative impacts on your health, happiness and quality of life.”

The health and wellbeing of employees is crucial to the success of a business, and staff with unhealthy habits could be having a negative impact on profits.

In a recent article for Business Advice, David Price, managing director of workplace wellbeing consultants Health Assured, confirmed that regular breaks were beneficial to motivation and productivity.

“Make sure your employees feel comfortable taking breaks to keep moods lifted. During the dark winter months, employees rarely see the sun, so it’s great to encourage them to get outside and enjoy the little bit of sunshine we do get,” Price advised.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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