Working hours on the rise after employees endure enforced ‘detox’

Working hours are on the rise again after the recession and cost-saving measures implemented by employers led to a forced “detox” for workers.

A study of official UK and EU statistics by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that summer 2009 marked a low point in working time, since when the number of long-hours workers has started to rise again.

The recession has resulted in both a fall in total employment (down by a net 580,000 in the two years to spring 2010) and a shift from full-time employment (which has fallen by 910,000) to part-time employment (which has increased by 330,000).

This shift is to some extent due to many people working shorter hours to help their employers cut labour costs and minimise redundancies. The combined impact of these changes is a net fall of 32.7 million (3.5%) in the number of hours worked each week in the UK.

However, total hours have since started to rise again, indicating a modest, though uneven, pick-up in demand for labour since mid-2009.

John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the CIPD, said: “A marked shift to shorter working hours has been one of the key characteristics of the recession. But signs of an increase in long-hours working since the trough in hours in summer 2009 suggest that the fall in working time during the jobs downturn was a forced detox for Britain’s workaholics, most of whom will be eager to start putting in the hours again once the economic recovery gathers steam.

“HR managers mindful of the importance of a sensible work-life balance will need to determine whether a return to long hours working is the best outcome for staff or the organisations that employ them.”

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