Work smarter and more productive, TUC urges
Despite Europe’s working time directive, more people are working in excess of its 48-hours-a-week limit than they were ten years ago, with managers and professionals topping the long hours league. But with legal changes due that will make the 48 hour limit much tougher, the TUC warns that businesses must learn to organise their work more efficiently so that staff can ‘work smart’ and be more productive within shorter hours.
TUC General Secretary John Monks said:
“Britain’s long hours culture is a national disgrace. It leads to stress, ill health and family strains. But even worse it’s an indictment on how badly we manage work in the UK. Half the country is caught in a vicious circle of low pay, low productivity and long hours, with the other half trapped in their offices and battling ever growing in-trays. Other countries produce more, earn more and work far shorter hours. We should, and can, do the same, if employers, unions and government work together.”
Nearly 4 million employees (16%) are now working more than 48 hours a week – 350,000 more than in 1992 – according to a TUC report published (Mon 4). Most are men, with one in four now working more than 48 hours, despite the evidence that working very long hours is bad for people’s health which led to the European Union to introduce the working time directive that became law in the UK in 1998.
One in ten men work even longer hours. Nearly one and a quarter million work more than 55 hours a week – almost a seven day week of normal eight hour days. One in 25 men (4%) work more than 60 hours.
The UK tops the European long hours league, and is the only country that allows staff to opt out of the 48 hour limit. The average working week is 43.6 hours in the UK compared to an EU average of 40.3 hours.
There is a class divide in working hours. The TUC report, About Time: a new agenda for shaping working life, finds that over half of all managerial and professional employees working extra hours say that they are doing so to deal with excessive workloads, while around 70% of skilled and manual employees say that they are earning overtime pay. Managerial and professional employees are the most likely to be working long hours – 2.25million of them are working in excess of 48 hours. Over two fifths (41%) of men in management jobs are working more than 48 hours compared with the national average for all employees of 16%.
But the EU is certain to end the UK opt out following a review in 2003, so the UK must start to tackle the long hours culture now, says the TUC report. The TUC said its survey showed how badly work was managed in the UK compared with other countries.
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