Survey blames poor IT for UK's high rates of unpaid overtime

Almost 66% of employees work an extra hour or more a day, and 13% of employees are putting in four hours or more a day outside...

Almost 66% of employees work an extra hour or more a day, and 13% of employees are putting in four hours or more a day outside their core business hours, according to research by software company WRQ. The study cited problems with technology as one of the key reasons for late working.

The survey found that more than 50% of employees do not get paid for the additional hours spent at their desks and nearly 75% do not take their full lunch break entitlement.

Such high levels of over-service mean that some UK companies are getting an extra eight working days a year per employee.

"Putting these figures into perspective, for every working week, 13% of employees are giving an extra half a week for free," said Bob Stream, head of WRQ UK. "It is as if these British workers are giving their employers supermarket style offers - buy two weeks and get the third free.

"In monetary terms, this equates to more than £12,000 of 'free labour' per employee each year, based on the average gross hourly earnings of £11.73 per hour [Office For National Statistics, April 2002].

"Even for those employees working just one extra hour a day, this totals more than 30 working days a year - well in excess of most people's holiday entitlement."

According to WRQ, technology is a root cause of the high rates of overtime among UK employees. The survey found that inefficient technology has over-burdened the increasingly stressed office worker. Also, many companies rely on large numbers of disparate, older IT systems that can require time-consuming labour.

The overtime situation was found to be significantly worse for employees in the Midlands, Wales and the south of England, where almost one quarter (24% in the Midlands/Wales and 22% in the South) work on average at least 2.5 extra hours a day, compared to just 10% of office workers in the north of England and Scotland.

WRQ's research also found that older workers are worse off when it comes to overtime pay. Although 47% of the 16- to 24-year-olds questioned said they receive additional salary for any extra hours worked, only 13% of 55- to 64-year-olds do so, with 71% never receiving extra pay for overtime.

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