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Welsh employees ‘worked unpaid overtime worth £634m in 2023’

23 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Photo by Studio Republic on Unsplash

Martin Shipton

Welsh employers claimed £634m of free labour last year because of workers doing unpaid overtime, according to new analysis published by the Wales TUC.

Friday February 23 is the TUC’s 20th annual Work Your Proper Hours Day. On this day, workers are encouraged to take the breaks they are entitled to and finish their shifts on time.

At the same time managers are encouraged to support staff by setting reasonable workloads and putting in place workplace policies to protect against burnout.


The main findings of the research are:

* Unpaid overtime is a problem for millions of workers: 130,000 workers in Wales – 8.7% of the total – did unpaid overtime in 2023, putting in an average of 6.2 unpaid hours a week. For those workers, that’s equivalent on average to £5,819 a year of wages going unpaid for work done.

* In 2023 teachers topped the list for both the proportion of staff doing unpaid overtime (40%) and the average weekly overtime across all employees (4.4 hours). Chief executives, managers and directors feature strongly, suggesting that the additional responsibilities of senior staff are not properly managed by employers.

* Unpaid overtime is more common in the public sector: 1 in 6 public sector workers (16.7%) did unpaid overtime in 2023, compared to 1 in 9 (11.9%) in the private sector. Public sector staff across the UK gave £11bn worth of unpaid overtime to meet the needs of service users. That is an average of more than 10 million hours each week of unpaid overtime in our public services.

*  Women and men are equally likely to work unpaid overtime, with 13.2% of workers of each gender likely to. However, women who work unpaid overtime do 0.3 hours a week fewer than men (7.0 hours for women, and 7.3 hours for men).

* BME workers are less likely to work unpaid overtime than white workers (9.3% of BME workers, and 13.9% of white workers). BME workers who work unpaid overtime do slightly more than white workers (7.6 hours for BME workers, and 7.1 hours for white workers).

– Methodology for the analysis: This TUC analysis is based on the Labour Force Survey (LFS) 2023Q2. This is the latest available dataset at the time of publication. We usually use Q3 datasets for this analysis so have not made comparisons to previous years. This year the ONS has paused publication of the LFS and is currently reweighting its data. That means this analysis may be subject to some minor revisions.


So far as the Wales TUC is concerned, the legal obligation on  employers to record working hours needs to be strengthened.

In a 2019 the European Court of Justice ruled that employers should establish an “objective, reliable and accessible system” for recording hours. This ruling was binding on the UK.

But when the Conservative UK Government had the opportunity to strengthen requirements on employers with the Retained EU Law Act, ministers retained the UK’s far weaker rules. Employers are only required to keep “adequate” records of hours worked.

Wales TUC General Secretary Shavanah Taj said: “We’re encouraging every worker to take their proper lunchbreak and finish on time today. And we know that the best employers will support them doing that.

“Most workers in Wales don’t mind putting in extra hours from time to time, but they should be paid for it. Part of the problem is that some employers fail to record the overtime staff do. And when they don’t record it, they don’t pay it.

“Conservative ministers know about this problem, but they refuse to tighten the rules on employers’ records. That’s not good enough. Working people deserve a UK government that is on their side.”

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Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
1 month ago

Doctors are up there as well. Unpaid extra work is embedded in the NHS and has subsidised it from the beginning. It is difficult to measure because of so-called on call which now drifts into continuous working.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

We’ve all done it, in some care sectors, for example, it’s often seen as a gesture of good will towards those we support. However, some employers are now expecting it and it’s turned into a form of abuse. We have to be careful, working conditions have eroded over the past forty years, employers are taking far more from us now we don’t want to give them even more voluntary.

1 month ago

TUC’s 20th annual Work Your Proper Hours Day? Never heard of it. TUC not exactly doing a great job in promoting this, are they?

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