Employers saved £27.4bn through unpaid overtime in 2009, the TUC has found.
Analysis of official figures by the TUC has revealed that 5.07 million people regularly worked unpaid overtime in 2009, a decline of 168,000 on the previous year as employers reduced hours to protect jobs.
Staff undertaking the overtime worked on average seven hours and 12 minutes a week, worth £5,402 a year – an increase of £263 since 2008.
Of the five million employees who worked unpaid overtime, nearly 18% worked more than 10 hours a week for free.
Workers in Northern Ireland and the East Midlands were the most likely to do more than 10 hours of unpaid overtime, with 23.1% and 21.3% doing so.
The TUC has calculated that if everyone who worked unpaid overtime did it from the start of the year, they would only start getting paid on Friday 26 February. The TUC has declared this day Work Your Proper Hours day and will call on bosses to thank staff for the extra work they have put in to help employers during the recession.
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: “Millions of people are still working far too many hours and often they are not even being paid for it. This long-hours culture causes stress and damages people’s health.
“Most employers are understandably focused on fighting their way through the recession. But they shouldn’t forget that working cultures such as pointless presenteeism – which keeps people at their desks for no good reason – is not just bad for staff but bad for business too.”