Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Posts Tagged ‘Working hours

Reminder: Work Your Proper Hours Day…

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… is today. Today’s the day when the average person who does unpaid overtime would start earning for themselves if they did all their unpaid overtime at the start of the year. Celebrate it!

To coincide, the TUC has published some new analysis of official statistics to highlight those occupations that have the most working hours, particularly those working ‘extreme’ levels of unpaid overtime – i.e. people working more than ten extra hours per week. For this group, this level of unpaid overtime means that Work Your Proper Hours Day is not until at least 26 April (or later, for those working more than ten additional hours per week).

By occupation, the Work Your Proper Hours Day for some key groups of employees for which high levels of unpaid overtime is more common is as follows:

Functional managers – 25 April

Corporate managers and senior officials – 7 May

Business and statistical professionals – 30 April

Quality and customer care managers – 20 April

Legal professionals – 20 April

ICT – 15 April

Business and financial professionals – 2 May

For members of Prospect in a major private sector employer with which we deal, our most recent survey of terms and conditions found out that the average level of unpaid overtime was 8.14 hours per week. At the median salary level of £40,500, this took people’s hourly rate down from £21.56 to £17.58 – indicating an average value to the employer of unpaid overtime of nearly £7,500 per year. And countless costs as regards personal and family lives and relationships.

Getting a work-life balance that works for you as an individual has been at the heart of the union’s continuing worktime, yourtime campaign seeking to promote options that can provide a better work-life balance for individuals. That might entail making small, simple changes or making more significant long-term changes to your working pattern.

The worktime yourtime pages within the Connect sector of Prospect also give more specific advice about particular issues and options for achieving a better work-life balance. Use them!

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Written by Calvin

26/02/2010 at 2:09 pm

A 21-hour week?

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The new economics foundation’s latest report, published on Saturday, seeks to argue the case for why shorter working time could help us all to flourish in the 21st century.

nef believes that shorter working time is ‘set to become the norm’ as the country grapples with the economic, social and environmental problems confronting it, not least against the backdrop of the work-earn-consume vicious circle, while a goal of a 21-hour week would, in the words of Anna Coote, co-author of the report and nef’s Head of Social Policy let us see that:

Spending less time in paid work could help us to break this pattern. We’d have more time to be better parents, better citizens, better carers and better neighbours. And we could even become better employees: less stressed, more in control, happier in our jobs and more productive. It is time to break the power of the old industrial clock, take back our lives and work for a sustainable future.

Lower working time would, via a reduction in stress patterns, certainly help to make us better people. It might also help unemployment – though probably not in the short-term – and an ending of consumerism might well conserve environmental resources. The latter might be a step too far for some in the face of the need for economies to expand, but a just transition to a green economy, preserving jobs and skills with a view to the benefits of a growing economy, differently constituted, remains the right emphasis here.

A working week of 21 hours for all might or might not be an achievable goal – but at least it’s a good hook for a general discussion on the social impact of working time. The level of unpaid overtime in the UK remains too high and, while average working hours have come down in the last ten years (ASHE reports a reduction of one hour in the mean hours of full-time employees between 1997 and 2009), the working week in the UK remains above the EU average, both for the expanded EU and for member states prior to the accession of countries in eastern and central Europe where working hours are higher.

The following chart shows the long-term decline in working time in the UK, as reported by the OECD. The measure used – average annual hours actually worked per worker – is not ideal (not least since it does not strip out the effects of a rise in temporary and part-time working, and since the reduction between 2001 and 2003 is not readily explicable), but it does show that working time in the UK has fallen by about 15% over the period.

Ahead of next week’s Work Your Proper Hours Day, nef’s report is a worthwhile contribution to the debate at the macro level. The policy solutions associated with such ‘blue sky’ thinking are frequently problematic, and this is no exception. Nevertheless, the major difficulty always lies in making this sort of debate meaningful at the micro level, where the notion of such drastic cuts in working time means little to many full-time employees focused as they are on keeping their jobs, not to say their pensions. On a day-to-day basis, the basic goal remains one of getting people to think about their own work-life balance and, in this context, such reports continue to offer useful service. A reduction of a similar order to that reported by the OECD, and over a quicker period, would be welcome and if the report contributes to that objective, well and good.

Written by Calvin

15/02/2010 at 2:45 pm

Make Me Wanna Holler…

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Research published today by the TUC shows that UK workers gave away £27bn in unpaid overtime in 2009.

Some five million of you regularly worked unpaid overtime last year – with the average amount of unpaid overtime being 7 hours and 12 minutes per week. On the basis of a 36-hour week, that’s exactly one additional new working day per week. The absolute number of people working unpaid overtime fell back slightly on 2008 levels, but the individual annual value of all that unpaid overtime was some 5% higher on 2008, at £5,402 (an increase of £263).

The figures (which include some interesting data at the level of the nations making up the UK and the English regions) have been released as part of the TUC’s preparation for Work Your Proper Hours Day – the day when workers start getting paid if all their unpaid overtime for the year was worked from 1 January. Pressures on workers in a recession are huge and workers susceptible to losing their jobs are, understandably, likely to do all they can to keep them – including putting in extra hours. This is why the TUC’s message this year for Work Your Proper Hours Day is that bosses ‘should thank staff for the extra work they are putting in to help businesses through the recession’ (as well as that ‘pointless presenteeism’ is bad for staff and businesses).

These figures are close to those we have found from our own surveys. The 2009 BT survey, for example, found that full-timers worked an additional 8 hours and 10 minutes on top of their contractual working week (that’s a normal week which extends not only across Saturday as a normal working day but into Sunday too). We also regularly find that stress rises significantly with working time – and 2009 was no different.

This year, Work Your Proper Hours Day is Friday 26 February. But you don’t have to wait ’til then to start claiming your life back.

Written by Calvin

07/01/2010 at 12:46 pm