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UK – Women in the public sector driving increase in unpaid overtime

24 February 2014

The number of employees working unpaid overtime has gone up in the public sector over the last decade, but has held steady in the private sector, according to a new analysis of official figures published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), reports ekklesia.co.uk.

The analysis is published ahead of “Work Your Proper Hours Day” on Friday 28 February. Unpaid overtime is more common in the public sector, with more than one in four public servants working unpaid overtime, compared to around one in six of workers in the private sector.

More than a quarter (27.4%) of public sector staff completed unpaid overtime, of at least an hour a week, in 2013, up from 24.8% in 2003. The average amount of unpaid overtime done by these staff is seven hours 42 minutes a week; 18 minutes less than in 2003.

The increase in unpaid overtime across the public sector over the last decade is almost entirely driven by more than a quarter of a million extra women doing hours for free.

In 2003 a smaller proportion of women (24.3%) in the public sector did unpaid overtime than men (25.8%). Women have now overtaken men with an increase of 3.9 percentage point in the number of workers doing unpaid overtime to 28.2%. The proportion of men doing unpaid overtime has barely changed in the last decade (up 0.1 percentage points to 25.9%).

In the private sector, 18.1% of staff did unpaid overtime last year, compared to 18% in 2003. However, those staff who do unpaid overtime have seen a substantial increase in the amount they do from seven hours in 2003 to seven hours 48 minutes in 2013.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Times are tough for public sector workers. As the cuts bite and fewer staff find themselves having to take on more work, unpaid overtime inevitably grows. Some of the increase will be down to the professionalism and commitment of staff who want to provide decent services. But there is also evidence of bullying and excessive management pressure in some workplaces.”

“It is not surprising that morale is so low across the public sector. Hours are up, workload has increased, pay has been frozen, pensions cut and jobs insecure as public sector staff know that 60 per cent of the cuts are still to come,” she concluded. 

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