RSS Feed


More Articles: Latest Popular Archives

UK workers – £31 billion worth of unpaid overtime a year

Frances O'Grady

Public sector employees make up a quarter (25%) of total employees but produce more than a third (39%) of all unpaid overtime.

UK workers gave their employers £31.2 billion of free labour last year by doing unpaid overtime, according to new analysis of official statistics published today (Friday) by the TUC.

Today is the TUC’s 14th annual Work Your Proper Hours Day. Prior to this day, the average person doing unpaid overtime has effectively worked the year so far for free.

Nearly 5 million people put in an average of 7.4 hours a week in unpaid overtime during 2017. This is equivalent to missing out on pay averaging £6,265 each.

To mark the day, the TUC is asking workers to take a proper lunch break and leave on time. And managers should consider how to move away from over-reliance on unpaid overtime.

Workers can check how much more they’d get each year if their overtime was paid at their usual rate at

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Lots of us are willing to put in a bit of extra time when it’s needed. But it’s a problem if it happens all the time. So today we’re saying to workers, make sure you take a proper lunch break and go home on time.

“We’re asking managers to leave on time too. Good bosses know that a long-hours culture doesn’t get good results. And the best way to lead is by example. If you’re worried about the long-hours culture where you work, get together with workmates and join a union. That’s the best way to get your voice heard, and stop your boss breaking the rules.”

The TUC analysis also found that while public sector employees make up a quarter (25%) of all employees, they account for more than a third (39%) of all unpaid overtime.

Frances O’Grady added:

“Public sector workers are more likely to work extra hours unpaid. It’s a mark of how dedicated our public servants are – and it’s kept our schools and hospitals running through years of funding cuts.

“But public service workers have also had eight years of real pay cuts, so they are being forced to do more for less. It’s time the government gave them the fully-funded pay rise they have earned.”


Notes to editors:

Table 1 – Unpaid overtime by region and value

Nation / region Number working unpaid overtime Proportion working unpaid overtime Average weekly hours of unpaid overtime Average gross hourly pay Total value per week (£000s) Total value per year (£m) Annual value per worker
North East 151,039 15.1% 7.6 £14.51 16,791 873 £5,705
North West 467,517 16.7% 7.6 £14.84 53,019 2,757 £5,897
Yorks and Humber 372,786 17.7% 7.6 £14.30 40,440 2,103 £5,641
East Midlands 353,097 19.8% 7.6 £14.33 38,312 1,992 £5,642
West Midlands 364,995 16.7% 7.8 £14.91 42,637 2,217 £6,074
Eastern 499,038 20.6% 7.5 £15.50 57,874 3,009 £6,074
London 879,376 24.8% 7.6 £21.78 146,208 7,603 £8,646
South East 835,359 23.1% 7.3 £16.75 102,298 5,320 £6,368
South West 426,882 20.4% 7.3 £14.81 45,995 2,392 £5,603
Wales 169,219 16.3% 6.6 £14.12 15,762 819 £4,844
Scotland 381,922 17.5% 6.9 £15.71 41,404 2,153 £5,637
Northern Ireland 81,400 12.6% 7.0 £14.13 7,998 415 £5,109
UK 4,984,630 19.6% 7.4 £16.20 600,514 31,227 £6,265

Table 2 – Unpaid overtime for occupations with longest average unpaid hours

Occupation Number employees working unpaid overtime Per cent working unpaid overtime Average unpaid hours
Chief Executives 22,993 25.5% 14.1
Teaching and educational professionals 757,290 53.1% 12.5
Legal professionals 60,593 45.0% 9.6
Production managers 125,519 32.8% 9.5
Functional managers* 335,742 45.1% 8.8
Transport and logistics managers 52,940 39.3% 8.6
Welfare professionals 61,063 32.3% 8.6
hospitality and leisure managers 39,471 20.8% 8.6
Finance institution managers 36,525 39.5% 8.2
Quality and regulatory professionals 44,844 33.9% 8.1

Source: the TUC’s analysis used unpublished ONS data from the Labour Force Survey (July-September 2017) and the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (2017).

*Functional managers: financial managers, marketing and sales directors, purchasing managers, advertising and public relations directors, human resource managers, IT managers.

 Key findings:
Gender: The TUC study reveals that men work just over 1.1 billion unpaid overtime hours a year (1,127 million hours), compared to just under 1.0 billion hours for women (951 million hours). Around one in five (19.5%) men work unpaid overtime, averaging 8.5 hours per week. A similar percentage of women (19.7%) also put in unpaid hours. Even though women are more likely than men to work part-time the average for those undertaking unpaid overtime is still 6.9 hours a week.

 Public sector: Public sector workers contributed £12.2 billion of unpaid overtime last year. Public sector employees make up a quarter (25.2%) of total employees but produce more than a third (39.3%) of all unpaid overtime.

 Occupations: Looked at on an individual basis, chief executives work the most unpaid hours on average each week (14.1 hours). They are closely followed by teachers and education professionals (12.5 hours per week), followed by legal professionals (9.6 hours), production managers (9.5 hours), functional managers such as financial, marketing, and personnel managers (8.8 hours) and transport and logistics managers, welfare professionals and hospitality and leisure managers (all 8.6 hours).

 Regions: Employers in London rely most on free work, with 1 in 4 workers (24.8%) doing unpaid overtime, compared to the national average of one in five (18.4%).  Employees in London worked a total of 347 million free hours last year. The South East follows close behind, with 23.1% working unpaid overtime, whilst 20.6% in the Eastern Region and 20.4% in the South West are working free hours. However, the 365,000 unpaid overtime workers in the West Midlands have edged ahead when it comes to most unpaid hours each (7.8 hours per week, compared to the national average of 7.4 hours). London, the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands and the North West are all close behind, with unpaid overtime workers averaging 7.6 free hours per week.

 Age: People in their 40s are most likely to do unpaid overtime, with more (23.4%) in this age group putting in unpaid hours compared to an average of less than one in five (18.4%) for all UK workers.

– The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 49 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.


Receive more HR related news and content with our monthly Enewsletter (Ebrief)