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Average Australian Works 4.6 Hours In Unpaid Overtime

Published November 28, 2016 (last updated June 25, 2020) -
Unpaid Overtime

Please note that the information provided below is relevant as of 28/11/16. To receive news on the latest legislative changes, sign up for our Free Monthly Newsletter.

Each year Australia Institute conducts a study of Australia’s work patterns. New research reveals Australians on average are working 4.6 hours of unpaid overtime each week that adds up over the year to about 14% of all the time the worker gets paid for. Some of those hours are spent:

  • checking emails before or after work
  • working through lunch
  • staying back late
  • coming to work early
  • returning calls out of business hours

The study also reveals that about 48 million days in unused annual leave worth about 11.1 billion dollars annually are not taken. While the figure itself is alarming, put into perspective that one third of Australians (or example, casual workers or people in self-employment) are not entitled to annual leave – this says a lot about Australian work life.

This excess work is a threat to leisure time. The study asked respondents to cite the reasons for not taking annual leave, many citing work related pressures:

  • too much to do at work
  • too busy
  • worried about oppressing their boss
  • their job security
  • saving it up to use later
  • want to be seen as committed
  • not knowing how to push back on excess work

Of course there are people who love their job and do not mind putting in the extra hours. However, it is not the majority of people’s choice to voluntarily work overtime without pay and it does reflect the stated or unstated expectations from employers. This is not to say that employers are overtly forcing employees to work extra hours without pay or neglect to take their leave, however it may be in different implicit forms or expectations that employees who work longer hours are favoured, more inclined for promotions or bonuses.

Ultimately, employers should not promote a work ethic where employees feel unrealistic expectations are the measure of their success. Employees should not fear being out of a job or that they will be treated less favourably if they do not work overtime.

Employers should encourage and have a conversation with employees about drawing lines between work and personal life. A culture that rewards long hours could be rewarding the least productive workers.

As Australia’s leading workplace relations specialist Employsure can assist you with managing your employees for a more productive workplace. Call us today on 1300 651 415.

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