Five million employees work for free for more than 50 days every year

The number of employees working unpaid overtime increased by 103,000 in 2007, bringing the total to nearly five million, according to a new analysis of official statistics by the TUC.

The average amount of unpaid overtime is now seven hours and six minutes a week, the analysis of data from the National Statistics Labour Force Survey and Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings revealed.

Based on these figures, employees who work unpaid overtime would receive an extra £4,955 a year if they were paid for those extra hours.

The TUC has calculated that if everyone in the UK who works unpaid overtime did all their unpaid work at the start of the year, the first day they would get paid would be Friday 22 February.

As a result, the TUC has announced that February will be ‘Work Your Proper Hours Day’, and is calling on employers to say thank you to staff for putting in the extra time by ensuring that they work their contracted hours on this day.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “After years of progress, the UK’s long-hours culture is enjoying a renaissance, and today’s figures suggest many people are not even being paid for putting in these extra hours.

“We’re calling on all employees, including bosses, to take a stand on Work Your Proper Hours Day by making sure they take a proper lunch break and leave on time.”

But David Bradley, partner and head of employment at law firm DLA Piper, said unpaid overtime was part of the “human element” of an employment contract.

“The employment landscape has changed significantly in the UK over the past 30 years. We are now largely a service economy with a reduction in industry where ‘clock in/clock out’ is the norm.

“Good employers respect their employees and seek to retain, reward and motivate them. And good employees take such a personal pride in their work that “extra minutes or hours” are often freely given out of a sense of doing a job well, or because it will aid their career progression,” he added.

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