Work Your Proper Hours Day
Today is the TUC’s annual work your proper hours day. If you usually work unpaid overtime why not try to arrange to have your proper lunch-breaks and go home on time. If you can’t do it today, just pick another day soon and try to stick to it. Four out of five employees never work any unpaid hours, including the majority of salaried workers.
Flexibility at work can be a good thing, but it has be about give and take. The problem is that our current economic difficulties mean that more employers have been choosing to rely on staff doing unpaid hours and that all “take ” and no “give” is obviously a bad thing.
Unpaid overtime has traditionally been concentrated in mid-career employment between the ages of 35 and 55. However, using unpublished data from the ONS Labour Force Survey the TUC has found a big increase in older workers doing unpaid hours in the past decade. An extra quarter of a million workers aged 55-64 now work unpaid overtime, and the number aged 60+ has increased by 45 per cent. This is most likely to stem from concerns about retirement income, which have been intensified by the loss of many company pension schemes and the effect of of the recession on the yields from private pensions.
This means that those who work unpaid overtime are now continuing to work in the same roles and not taking early retirement or winding down before retiremmnt. This change in behaviour is affecting those at the other end of the age scale, as longer working lives also mean fewer vacancies created by retirement.
Too many working hours lead to health problems, more sickness absence, falling quality of work and no time to pursue training and outside interests. Its obvious that that the issue of improving productivity in core time should be a win-win. The smartest employers alerady understand this, so the real debate is about how we spread best practice on working time more broadly.
Other successful countries don’t have this problem to the same extent that the UK does, so it is clear that change is possible. Individual employees should talk to their friends at work about this issue, to their unions where they are present, and to their bosses (unless they happen to be an unapproachable ogre, of course). Managers should think about how they can manage working time to avoid excessive unpaid hours whilst improving productivity and output, and Government and employer’s organisations should try to help employers to move away from long hours – with a helping hand proffered by the TUC and trade unions if they wish.
See: http://www.worksmart.org.uk/workyourproperhoursday/ for more advice about working your proper hours.
Also worth looking at the 2005 DTI/CBI/TUC report “Practical ways to reduce long hours and reform working practices” which is all about better work organisation: www.bis.gov.uk/files/file14239.pdf
I’m off to lunch now!