By Mark Fairlie.
The average British employee will work 9 hours a week worth of overtime in November and 13 hours a week during December, according to online savings website www.myvouchercodes.co.uk.
When asked how they covered the cost of Christmas:
- 54% of the 2,384 respondents to the survey said that they would work overtime,
- a quarter saved throughout the year, and
- a seventh bought presents throughout the year to spread the cost.
Additional time spent at work per employee during November and December totalled 75 hours, producing an additional £547.50 in the run-up to Christmas.
This overtime money contributed towards a total estimated cost of a family Christmas of £1,805 (£2,795 for families with two children), money that would be spent on “food and drink, clothing, decorations, presents, travel and more”, according to the report’s authors.
The survey found that:
- 31% of respondents would find the additional working hours from their current employer,
- 37% would take on a second job, and
- 32% would seek cash-in-hand work.
All respondents to the survey were in full-time employment and aged 18 or over.
Overtime pay today
Many other employees may feel aggrieved that the workers questioned in the survey are paid overtime at all.
In a poll for TotalMoney as reported in the National, 59% of employees told the company that they were not paid additional wages for the, on average, 10.1 extra hours they put in at work a week with “unpaid overtime…a regular part of everyday working life for most”.
Respondents told TotalMoney that the reason they did unpaid overtime was “too much work” contributing to a feeling among 61% that overtime was contributing to a feeling that they did not enjoy a “good work/life balance”.
The Financial Times reported that part of the shift away from paid overtime for those who no longer benefit from it was the dawn of the “era of flexible working”. Quoting the Office for National Statistics, the average employer in 1997 was paid for 2.2 hours’ worth of overtime a week. This figure had fallen to one hour in 2016.
Interviewed in the same article, Bob Hart, a labour economist at the University of Stirling, casts doubt on whether “overtime premiums were ever as generous as believed”. Research carried out by Mr Hart on overtime in the late 1990s and early 200s suggested that companies which paid employees overtime “tended to have lower base wages”.
Long working hours culture
Many commentators believe that long working hours are a defining characteristic of modern employment culture within the UK.
The Trades Union Congress launched a “Work Your Proper Hours Day” in 2004 as “part of the battle against excessive unpaid overtime”. On this day, the TUC was urging participants to “take your proper lunch break and go home on time today”.
It claims that “3.3 million UK employees regularly work more than 48 hours a week” with “five million workers put in an average of 7.4 extra unpaid hours, missing out on an average of £6,265”.
Recently, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell approached economist Lord Skidelsky to head a party inquiry into the advantages and disadvantages of moving to a four day week, according to the Guardian, following a similar call by TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady.