Five Million Unpaid Britains

The UK’s reputation for long working hours has been bolstered by a new study claiming 5 million Britons work on average an extra day a week in unpaid overtime.

Millions of workers are still putting in up to an extra day a week for free, but there are now some welcome signs that some employers are beginning to realise that endless hours of unpaid overtime are often a sign of an inefficient workplace and not something to celebrate.

The Confederation of British Industry is less convinced there is a problem and points to the increasing number of workplaces offering flexible hours.

The study has reveled that despite full-time employees in the UK working the longest hours in the EU (excluding the new member states), Britain came only 12th out of 15 countries in terms of productivity per hour, with productivity per worker just 92 per cent of the average.

The report comes as the UK faces new pressure from trade unions and other EU member states to relinquish its opt-out from the European Working Time Directive, which aims to limit the working week to 48 hours. The government, despite criticism from its union allies, claims the opt out is vital to protect the UK’s economic competitiveness.

British unions however believe the government will eventually be forced to give way. The European Court of Justice delivered another blow to its position last month when it decided that working time of junior doctors should also include time spent "on call".

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