Unions have been warned that Friday’s Work Your Proper Hours Day could backfire and see employees treated like “slaves”.
The annual Trades Union Congress (TUC) campaign encourages employees to take proper breaks and leave work on time to highlight the £23bn-worth of free overtime they give UK employers every year.
But employment lawyer Stephen Miller, of McRoberts solicitors, warned that bosses could be moved to take a similarly rigid attitude during the working day. “If you, as a worker, work slavishly to your contract, don’t be surprised if you are then treated as a slave – in a sense – to all aspects of your contract,” he said.
TUC spokesman Paul Sellers insisted the campaign was just there to highlight the importance of work-life balance. “The fiercest critics are those who think we are encouraging people to down tools,” he said. “This isn’t a threatening campaign.”
Susan Anderson, director of HR policy at the CBI, sympathised with the message behind the campaign, but pointed out that the percentage of people working more than an extra hour per week fell last year to its lowest level for more than 15 years.