From the TUC

Leave your desk and go home…

28 Feb 2014, by in Working Life

If you’re reading this on your computer at work you need to switch it off and go home! But before you do that, let me briefly explain why.

Today is Work Your Proper Hours Day. This is the first day of the year when the 5.4m people who regularly work unpaid overtime effectively start getting paid for the work they do. If you’re one of the many people who puts in extra unpaid hours for your employer today is the day to leave work on time.

So why has the TUC been making such a fuss about unpaid overtime? The Work Your Proper Hours Day campaign started ten years ago in response to the endless surveys and newspaper articles that sought to characterise British workers as skivers, shirkers and time wasters.

These stories have not gone away. Only last week, an ONS report showing that the number of days lost to sickness absence rates had fallen by 40 per cent in the last 20 years, was reported in the Daily Express as 131m days being lost to ‘sickies’ last year. According to the right-wing press, any time off from work – be it a bad back, a broken leg or treatment for cancer – is framed as bogus, with sickness always described in inverted commas.

The reality is that workers across the UK are very hard-working. Not only do we work among the longest hours in Europe, many of those hours – over 40m a week – are unpaid. These unpaid hours save employers a fortune, around £33bn a year, and many bosses do not even thank their staff for doing them. Note to bosses reading this, today is the day when you should thank your staff for gong that extra mile – though this gratitude should be more than an annual ritual, prompted by the TUC.

Unpaid overtime is on the increase. Last year, an extra 331,000 people regularly worked unpaid overtime – the biggest ever increase.

Some of this is down to the growing number of people in work, which is something we all welcome. However the likelihood of working unpaid overtime has also increased to a record level, an altogether less welcome development. This is likely down to the fact that while there are more people in work, people are still concerned about their job security and work pressures are rising. This is exactly the kind of atmosphere where a long hours culture grows.

We want recent jobs growth to be accompanied by rising job security so that people don’t feel pressured into working long hours. But there’s plenty individual managers and employers can do to cut down on the number of unpaid hours that staff do.

Employers need to get better at assessing staff on the work people do, rather than the amount of time spent at their desks. This would cut out pointless presenteeism. And if there really is so much going on that everyone has to work ludicrously long hours, employers should consider the bold move of taking on more staff. There are over 2.3m unemployed people that would gladly take them up on their offer.

2 Responses to Leave your desk and go home…

  1. Louis Kasatkin
    Mar 1st 2014, 9:25 am


    As of 00.01 GMT,Monday 3 March 2014,Louis Kasatkin will commence his Hungerstrike protest action against,
    (1) His own continuing unemployment which is directly linked to
    (2) Zero Hours Contracts. You will find a precis of his iniquitous treatment at the hands of Agencies further down.
    Louis is a Christian , a life-long civic and cultural activist,Poet and Literary Arts promoter in Wakefield.He was recently honoured for his international work by Bharat College,Mumbai who appointed him a Senior Editor of their online academic journal,”Episteme”;and by Authors Press India of New Dehli with the Overseas Award for Excellence in Arts 2013.He is also Executive Producer of the forthcoming “Wakefield Wireless Mysteries”.
    He has already raised the issue of zero hours contracts with his MP,Mary Creagh who back in January gave a lengthy and detailed response to the concerns raised. Louis says that ,” What needs to happen is for the Trades Union and Labour movement as a whole to prioritise their public opposition to the scandal of zero hours contracts and to call for a Parliamentiary Enquiry into the policies and practices of employment agencies. ”
    The terms of Louis’ Hungerstrike are the same as last time;he will suspend his protest on the offer of employment,preferably a full time contract rather than the medieval serfdom of another zero hours.
    “Once again, I expect a successful outcome to my action”.

  2. Serviced Apartments Lady
    Mar 19th 2014, 10:56 am

    Interesting post, I think if I just got up and left today I might not be able to come back tomorrow sadly!