Long hours working is on the increase in the UK, according to a new analysis of workforce data by the TUC.
More than one in eight of the workforce now work more than 48 hours a week, with as many as one in six in London working over that threshold, the union umbrella group said.
Under the European Working Time Directive, employees are protected from working more than an average 48-hour week. But in the UK – unlike other EU countries – all workers can opt out of this protection.
The TUC claims that a lack of enforcement means that bad employers know this is employment legislation they can breach with little or no risk of any consequences.
The latest Labour Force Survey shows that 93,000 more people now work more than 48 hours a week, taking the total to 3,242,000. This equates to 13.1% of the workforce, up from 12.8% last year.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the rise in numbers was “very disturbing” and suggested that a steady decline in those working more than 48 hours a week has come to an end.
“Many employers recognise that overworked staff are unproductive by introducing more flexibility and better work-life balance, often under union pressure. But it now looks as if their efforts are being undone by those who don’t care about long hours,” he said.
“No-one should forget that 48 hours is six eight-hour days – more than enough for anyone every week.”
Barber called on the government to enforce existing rights to protect vulnerable workers.