Over five million workers across the UK gave away £27.4 billion in unpaid overtime in 2009, a TUC analysis of official statistics has revealed.

The TUC study shows that 5.07 million people regularly worked unpaid overtime in 2009, a decline of 168,000 since 2008.

Staff who did unpaid overtime worked an average of 7 hours 12 minutes a week, worth £5,402 a year – the highest amount since records began in the late 1990s – and an increase of £263 since 2008.

The biggest rises in the value of unpaid overtime have taken place in London (+£498), the North West (+£492) and the North East (+£474). Wales is the only area in which the value of unpaid overtime fell (-£392).

Of the five million employees who worked unpaid overtime, nearly 900,000 regularly worked more than ten hours a week for free. Workers in Northern Ireland (23.1 per cent of those who worked unpaid overtime), the East Midlands (21.3 per cent) and London (20.6 per cent) were the most likely to do more than ten hours of unpaid overtime a week.

With many employers and staff agreeing to reduce hours in order to avoid job losses, the reduction in working time has had a knock on effect on the number of people working paid and unpaid overtime, the TUC says.

If everyone who worked unpaid overtime did it from the start of the year, they would 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 are putting in to help businesses through the recession.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘The recession has forced many employees to do less hours in an effort to save jobs and this has also had an effect on the amount of unpaid overtime worked.

‘This flexibility and the sacrifices made by staff has saved jobs and kept companies afloat. Bosses should use Work Your Proper Hours Day to thank staff for the extra effort they are putting in to help their business through the recession.

‘But 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.’


Total amount of unpaid overtime, by area

Area Number of people of working unpaid overtime (thousands) Change 2008-09 (thousands) Value of unpaid overtime per worker per year (thousands) Change 2008-09 (thousands)
North East 171 -3 £4,310 +£474
North West 469 -3 £4,976 +£492
Yorkshire and Humberside 389 -9 £4,621 +£369
East Midlands 374 -6 £5,072 +£316
West Midlands 397 -34 £5,156 +£484
Eastern 513 -25 £5,238 +£187
London 809 -11 £8,532 +£498
South East 842 -22 £5,736 +£433
South West 436 -6 £4,599 +£276
Wales 190 -14 £4,276 -£392
Scotland 416 -9 £4,752 +£5
Northern Ireland 60 -30 £5,110 +£281
UK 5,067 -168 £5,402 +£263

Long hours unpaid overtime per week, by area

Area People doing1-10 hours unpaid overtime Percentage doing 1-10 hours unpaid overtime People doing 10+ hours unpaid overtime Percentage doing 10+ hours unpaid overtime
North East 147,428 86.0 24,048 14.0
North West 388,726 82.9 80,251 17.1
Yorkshire and Humberside 327,732 84.3 60,982 15.7
East Midlands 294,675 78.7 79,586 21.3
West Midlands 325,067 81.9 71,958 18.1
Eastern 417,922 81.5 95,168 18.5
London 642,911 79.4 166,422 20.6
South East 693,376 82.3 148,649 17.7
South West 367,429 84.3 68,592 15.7
Wales 159,749 84.2 29,993 15.8
Scotland 358,766 86.3 57,058 13.7
Northern Ireland 46,399 76.9 13,922 23.1
UK 4,170,180 82.3 896,629 17.7

– The tables exclude those who work less than one hour of unpaid overtime per week.

– The TUC has calculated the value of unpaid overtime using unpublished data from the National Statistics Labour Force Survey (April-June 2009 data) and Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.

– All results are for employees only.