By Maximilian Clarke
The total amount of paid overtime work has declined by a quarter since its pre-recession peak in 2007, research shows.
The analysis, carried out by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), shows that the total number of paid overtime hours has declined from 54 million in 2007 to 41 million in 2011 - a fall of 25 per cent over four years.
The fall in paid overtime since 2007 is due to both a fall in the number of workers doing paid overtime - 825,000 fewer employees regularly worked paid overtime in 2011 - and a fall in the average amount of paid overtime, down from 11.2 hours per week to 10.6 hours this year.
Workers in transport, mining and manufacturing are most likely to regularly work paid overtime, with around a quarter of employees in these sectors doing between 10 and 23 hours of overtime a week.
The availability of paid overtime has a major impact on the take home pay of millions of UK staff, so big falls in paid extra hours will substantially reduce the income of many workers and their families.
The move towards shift work from traditional overtime patterns has affected the average amount of paid overtime in manufacturing, says the TUC. The decline of paid overtime in sectors such as manufacturing, transport and mining also suggests that there is plenty of spare capacity and that these industries are still a long way short of a return to full health.
Workers in the North East (12.6 hours per week), the East of England (12.1 hours) and Yorkshire and the Humberside (11.9 hours) do the most hours of paid overtime per week. The TUC believes the prevalence of overtime in these regions is likely to be because of relatively large mining and manufacturing sectors.
London has seen the sharpest drop in paid overtime since 2007 - down from 15.1 hours in 2007 to 11 hours in 2011.
The number of people working paid overtime has declined from 5.6 million in 2001 to just 3.9 million people today.
However, the average amount of paid overtime per worker increased up to 2007, reaching a peak of 11.2 hours per week. The total number of hours of unpaid overtime has been declining rapidly over the last four years, says the TUC.
An over-reliance on excessive amounts of overtime is not healthy for workers, and much of it goes unpaid, says the TUC. However, paid extra hours have been an important source of income for millions of staff, with many relying on extra hours during the busy period running up to the festive period.
The TUC says that a rise in the amount of paid overtime is an economic indicator that will be felt directly in the pockets of workers, but hopes that a rise in the amount of available work will mean firms taking on extra staff, and not just extra hours for existing workers.
The fact that over half a million workers do more than 12 hours of paid overtime every week suggests that many employers should be able to take on more permanent employees, says the TUC.
The TUC would like to see a change in the organisation of work so that jobs are based on productivity and earnings from core hours, rather than excessively long and insecure hours that can affect people's health and family life. This requires unions and employers to work together to bring new innovations and cultures into the workplace.
“The squeeze on overtime has been adding to the financial pressure bearing down on working people as they prepare for the Christmas holiday,” commented Brenden Barber, TUC General Secretary.
“Workers in manufacturing, mining and transport are particularly affected by the fall in these much needed extra hours, with some industries affected by job losses, pay freezes and overtime shortfalls in recent years.
“With everyone looking for economic green shoots, a rise in the availability of paid overtime would be a welcome sign for millions of workers.
“But while we badly need incomes to grow, an over reliance on irregular and excessive overtime can mean long hours and wage packets that can flip from feast to famine depending on the availability of work.
“We must find a way to improve the organisation of working life so that we can move away from some people working excessive overtime while others remain unemployed.
“A greater focus on improving productivity and earnings from core hours could deliver both better pay and greater profitability. But to achieve this we need better management working with employees and their unions to change our culture of long hours and increasingly insecure work.'
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