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
efficiently so that staff can 'work smart' and be more productive
within shorter hours.
Nearly four million employees (16%) are now working more than 48 hours a
week - 350,000 more than in 1992 - according to a TUC report published
today, ahead of a major conference tomorrow on how to
tackle the long hours culture. 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
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.
Many European countries, including those more productive than the UK,
have tougher limits on hours. Austria, Finland, Norway, Portugal,
Belgium, Spain and Sweden all have 39 or 40 hour limits, and France
has a 35 hour week. 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.
There is a class divide in working hours. The TUC report, About Time:
a new agenda for shaping working life (see below), 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%.
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.'
A series of TUC rights leaflets, including advice on working time and
holidays, are available on our websiteand from the know your rights
line 0870 600 4 882. Lines are open every day from 8am-10pm. Calls are
charged at the national rate.
A new agenda for shaping working hours
1 The Working Time Regulations: the story so far
2 How many employees are working long hours?
3 Who works long hours?
4 Access to flexible working time arrangements
5 Employees who want (or need) to work longer hours
Forward by John Monks
This report shows that there is a yawning gap between the hours that people would like to work and the jobs available in today's labour market. It confirms that white-collar workers have seen their workloads increase in the last ten years and that it is increasingly difficult for many people to get their jobs done in their contractual hours. White-collar work intensification and low wages for the hourly paid help to explain why average hours of work in the UK are the longest in the European Union.
This phenomenon is bad for employers, workers and the country as a whole. It helps to explain the increase in stressrelated illnesses, in rising absenteeism and the increasing difficulties parents face in reconciling work and family life.
All the evidence demonstrates that long hours are bad for productivity ??? but for many employers reliance on overtime seems an easier option than constructive discussions with unions about boosting productivity through new forms of work organisation and investment in training and skills. This is the agenda that has to be addressed if the UK is to close the productivity gap with other major industrialised countries.
Employers must understand that the 'individual opt-out' that allows workers to agree to work for more than an average of 48 hours will disappear from the Working Time Directive in 2003. The UK's excessive working hours problem can no longer be ignored. Yet this poses a challenge for unions too ??? we have more than a million members working more than 48 hours as part of their standard pattern. The task then is for unions and employers to negotiate the changes necessary to ensure compliance with the 48-hour week.
Much of what the government has done so far to encourage more 'family friendly' employment is very welcome, even if the TUC has sometimes disagreed on points of detail. Our conference in February 2002 is a major event for the TUC. It is designed to launch a national debate on working time policy. It is the first step in closing that gap between the hours people want to work and the hours actually worked. The sooner employers and unions begin to strike new deals on working time the sooner we can ensure that
the gap is closed.
Excessive working hours and limited access to flexible working arrangements continue to be consistent features of UK working life. In spite of the implementation of the EU '48 Hour' Directive in 1998 and a range of recent Government initiatives to promote flexibility, the research findings in this report show that millions of UK employees are still working very long hours and that flexible working time arrangements are non-existent in too many workplaces.
The research also shows that while many employees would like to reduce their time at work, there are a
substantial number of employees saying they want (or need) more paid working hours. This imbalance highlights a striking degree of polarisation in working time patterns in the UK labour market.
Drawing on a TUC-commissioned opinion poll and an in-depth analysis of the Government's Labour Force
Survey, the report shows that:
Employees working long hours
??? nearly 4 million employees (16 per cent) are now working more than 48 hours a week compared to 3.3 million (15 per cent) in the early 1990s. In addition, as many as 1.5 million people say that they are now working more than 55 hours per week
??? men are much more likely to be working more than 48 hours a week, with 3.2 million (24 per cent) in this position compared to 750,000 (6 per cent) of women employees
??? two thirds of all employees (65 per cent) work some extra hours each week
??? UK employees easily work the longest week in the EU the latest analysis of full-time employees by Eurostat shows an average working week of 43.6 hours for the UK compared to an EU average of 40.3 hours
??? managerial and professional employees are the most likely to be working long hours ??? two and a quarter million of them are working in excess of 48 hours. Over two fifths (41 per cent) of men in management jobs are working more than 48 hours compared with the national average for all employees of 16 per ce nt
??? while women employees are generally less likely to work very long hours, a quarter of women in the professional occupations work more than 48 hours (the same proportion as male professionals). The research findings suggest that a great deal of this trend is explained by women teachers working many extra hours outside their teaching duties
??? long hours are also prevalent among men in both skilled and manual jobs in manufacturing, construction and transport just under a quarter (23 per cent) of skilled tradesmen and nearly a third (30 per cent) of 'operatives' are working in excess of 48 hours
??? the two main reasons given by employees for working extra hours are a need to generate overtime pay (46 per cent) and a need to work unpaid overtime to deal with unmanageable workloads (34 per cent)
??? there is a fairly distinct divide in the 'long-hours' culture between those in white collar jobs and other occupations ??? the main problem among managers and professionals appears to be excessive workloads while an imbalance between core and overtime pay appears to be the main cause of long hours among skilled and manual employees
Access to flexible working time arrangements
??? over two fifths (42 per cent) of full-time employees told the TUC opinion poll that they had to work their stated hours whatever the circumstances
??? only 16 per cent of employees (and only 22 per cent of women) can easily switch from full-time to part-time hours
??? just over a quarter of full-time employees (27 per cent) have access to a formal flexitime system and less than two fifths (38 per cent) are allowed to modify their start and finish times
??? over two fifths (41 per cent) are not allowed free time off to account for circumstances such as a doctor's appointment and/or a domestic emergency (e.g. letting builders in)
??? over 10 million employees (42 per cent) say that they would like to work shorter hours and 2.5 million (10 per cent) say that they are willing to take a pay cut to reduce their working week.
A polarised labour market
??? over 2 million employees say that they want (or need) more paid working hours
_ over 1.7 million want longer hours in their current job
_ nearly 400,000 either want longer hours in a new job or are looking for an additional part-time job
??? not surprisingly, part-timers account for more than half of all employees wanting more paid hours even though they constitute only a quarter of the employee workforce
??? while 8 per cent of all employees say that they want to work longer hours in their current jobs, the incidence is much higher in occupations with a large number of women working part-time for low wages (e.g. 13 per cent in Personal Services and 14 per cent in both Sales & Customer Services and Less Skilled occupations)
??? nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of part-time employees working in the Hotel & Catering sector say that they want more paid work
??? there is a regional dimension to the polarisation in working hour patterns ??? people tend to work longer hours in those regions which already have the most jobs per head of population
??? employees in Northern Ireland appear to be most satisfied with their working hours ??? only 11 per cent are working more than 48 hours (national average, 16 per cent) and only 4 per cent want to work longer hours (national average, 8 per cent)
??? employees in the East Midlands appear to be the most committed to working very long hours ??? although 18 per cent work more than 48 hours (national average, 16 per cent) only 37 per cent of all employees in the region expressed a desire for shorter hours compared to a national average of 42 per cent.
There are three key messages that might be drawn from the analysis presented in this report.
First, the Government must not argue for the extension of the individual opt-out beyond 2003 and should instead use this as an end-date for a national campaign that prom otes agreements to reduce excessive hours and extend the use of flexible working time arrangements.
The next message is that employers and unions have a central role to play in showing that agreements of this kind can become the norm. While the scale of the workingtime challenge in the UK requires ambition and innovation on the part of both employers and unions, it also presents real opportunities to address a broad agenda about the organisation of work, training and skills, and levels of investment.
Finally, the findings of this report suggest that the Government needs to consider further policy measures to extend access to flexible working time arrangements to many more employees. In particular, the TUC would like to see the proposed new right to flexible working for parents of young children strengthened and extended to all workers.
Combating excessive working time and promoting flexible working patterns are two inter-related issues that are rapidly rising up the policy agenda. Government, employers and trade unions alike accept that excessive working hours and limited access to flexible working arrangements continue to be uniquely depressing trademarks of UK working life.
However, in spite of statutory developments (the implementation of the EU '48 Hour' Directive in 1998)
and a range of Government initiatives to promote flexibility, millions of UK employees are still working very long hours and flexible working time arrangements are non-existent in too many workplaces.
There are some excellent initiatives designed to curb long hours and promote flexibility being undertaken by employers and trade unions working in partnership. However, there are too many workplaces where problems associated with working time are largely being ignored and simply swept under the carpet (e.g. the proliferation of the use of individual opt-outs from the Working Time Regulations in order to sustain long working hours).
More importantly, the significant benefits of intro ducing flexible and reasonable working hours for boosting organisational performance and improving the quality of employee relations is a key message that has yet to make an impression on most workplaces across the UK.
This is in spite of the fact that a number of key trends are driving forward an urgent need for reform of working time in the UK to reflect economic and social priorities.
??? the exemptions granted to the UK from the Working Time Directive, which have done much to sustain the large number of employees working excessive hours, are due for review in the summer of 2003 and employers and trade unions need to address this urgently
??? employers in both the private and public sectors are under increasing pressure to offer employees a greater choice of working patterns, with leading employers using choice to enhance competitiveness and productivity and to deliver high quality services to their customers and clients and also to attract and retain skilled staff
??? negotiating flexible working patterns is becoming a key collective bargaining issue for trade unions as employees increasingly express a desire for a greater say in the number, and pattern, of their working hours
??? the Government's strategy to tackle the UK's productivity gap with its major competitors will be seriously handicapped if employers and trade unions continue to ignore the necessary reform of working time.
As a first step in moving forward an agenda for reform, this report attempts to paint a picture of what the 'state of working time' is in the UK at present and how this conflicts with what employees actually want from their jobs and what the UK economy needs in order to enhance
Drawing on a TUC- commissioned opinion poll and an in-depth analysis of the Government's Labour Force Survey, the report clearly shows that too little progress has been made in either reducing excessive working hours or extending access to flexible working time arrangem ents in the UK in recent years.
Before setting out these research findings, the report charts what impact the introduction of the Working Time Regulations in 1998 have had on working time trends.
The research findings in this report have been generated from two sources:
??? a new opinion poll commissioned by the TUC; and
??? an in-depth analysis of the Government's Labour Force Survey.
The TUC opinion poll was undertaken by BRMB between 14-16 December 2001 and put two questions to a sample of 900 full-time employees. One question asked if they worked extra hours (i.e. either paid or unpaid overtime) and if they did so, their main reason for working these extra hours. The second question asked them how easy it was to vary or change their hours and then asked them if they had access to particular flexible working arrangements (e.g. flexitime). The data were weighted to ensure that the sample reflected the national demographic profile (i.e. of employees in Great Britain).
The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a large sample household survey of 120,000 people carried out each quarter by the Government. The survey asks a number of questions about working time, including the actual hours worked in the particular week in which the survey is undertaken, and more importantly, the number of weekly hours that people say they usually work.
This report uses the data from the LFS on 'usual weekly hours' because this is a more accurate measure of average weekly hours over time. This self-defined measure includes total usual weekly hours (i.e. people are asked to include all overtime worked, regardless of whether it is paid or unpaid).
The LFS also asks all employees if they would like to work either shorter or longer hours than at present in their current job (and in any new job that they are looking for). Unless otherwise stated, all the LFS data in this report cover the UK and are not seasonally adjusted. The most recent data is drawn from the LFS summer quar ter (i.e. June to August 2001) database and annual comparisons over time use summer quarter data from previous years.
The Working Time Regulations: the story so far
The EU Working Time Directive was transposed into UK law when the Working Time Regulations (WTRs)
were introduced in 1998. A central plank of the Directive is to set a working time limit of 48 hours per week on average as well as setting minimum standards for rest breaks and holidays.
What is too often ignored is that the working time limit in the WTRs is a health and safety measure.1 The health and safety rationale for the working time limit is at heart a simple one, i.e., the risk of work related health problems increases with the number of hours worked. Those working the longest hours are most likely to develop such problems, including cardiovascular disorders, mental health problems, stress related disorders, musculoskeletal problems and digestive disorders.
In addition, the effects of fatigue increase the risk of having an accident at work at a faster rate for hours worked above 48 per week, thus providing a clear rationale for the WTRs limit. It is important that this health and safety protection should apply to all workers, but at the moment there are a number of exclusions from the 48-hour week. Some are permanent, and others (e.g. transport workers) will end in
the next couple of years.
What is the law on the 48-hour week?
It is important to understand that the regulations allow a great deal of flexibility over maximum working time. The 48-hour week is an average, limiting a worker's working time to a maximum of 48 hours per week calculated over a rolling period of 17 weeks. The average includes overtime but excludes holidays, sick leave and maternity leave. In some circumstances specified in the regulations the rolling
reference period may be extended to 26 weeks.
In addition, still greater flexibilities can be negotiated though collective or workforce agreements. Such
agreements allow the reference period to be extended to 52 weeks. Employers may wish to strike this type of agreement to deal with seasonal surges of activity, whilst unions might seek to negotiate greater choice over working hours as part of the deal.
The UK is the only member state to have made use of the provision that allows individual workers to opt-out of the 48-hour limit. To do so workers must sign an agreement to that effect, which can be revoked at a later date. The TUC has opposed this provision, as the working time limit is a health and safety measure and should apply to all.
The European Commission must review the operation of the individual opt-out by June 2003 and prepare a report for the Council Of Ministers. Given that the UK is the only member state to have made use of the opt-out it is almost certain that the Commission will recommend the removal of this provision from the Directive. It is essential therefore that the government, unions and employers begin to
prepare for the introduction of the 48-hour week in the UK.
While this timetable presents some challenges to the social partners, the experience of other European countries demonstrates that it is possible to negotiate a reduction in working time whilst maintaining a strong economy and high levels of employment. Indeed, many other EU countries are not content to regard the WTRs 48-hour week average limit on working time as sufficient protection and
have chosen to set more stringent legal limits. Austria, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, Spain and Sweden all have maximum limits of 39 or 40 hours per week, whilst the French government introduced a 35-hour maximum in 2000.
The motive for EU governments to set these lower working time limits has usually been to stimulate improvements in productivity through a bargaining process that tries to reconcile employer calls for greater work organization flexibility with trade union calls for shorter working time. Health and productivity are linked, of course . Healthy workers are more likely to be productive than unhealthy
ones, whilst those working long hours are most likely to be suffering from fatigue or to be absent though ill-health or injury.
The opt-out in the UK
In the UK the option to make individual agreements to opt out of the 48-hour limit has been used so extensively that it has minimised the impact of the WTRs in curbing excessive working time. Various studies using different samples have consistently reported the extensive use of the opt-out:
??? 'The major response to the regulations was to encourage workers to sign forms opting-out of the 48-hour limit. A third had signed a collective or workforce agreement to vary the reference period'. 2
??? 47% of companies used opt outs from the 48-hour week working time limit for some groups of workers. For medium/large companies employing 500 to 5,000 the figure was as high as 71 per cent. 3
??? 'Half of the respondents had some staff working more than 48 hours before the introduction of the WTR'. The vast majority of these companies (81 per cent) had introduced opt outs. 4
??? 'Opt-outs were used by 66% of engineering respondents, and 50% in the print industry, the NHS and the retail industry'.5
??? A quarter of the companies questioned had opted out of the maximum 48-hour week. One in ten were purported to admit that their company actively encouraged the use
??? of the opt-out.6
1 A. Spurgeon, J.M. Harrington and C. Cooper, 'Health and Safety Problems Associated with Long Working Hours: A Review of the Current Position', Occupational and Environmental Medicine, vol 54, 1997; K. Sparks et al. 'The Effects of Hours of Work on Health: A Meta-Analytical Review', Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology, 70:4, 1997; N. Adnett and A. Dawson, 'The Economic Analysis of Industrial Accidents: A Reassessment', International Review of Applied Economics, 12:2, 1998
2 F. Neathey and J. Arrowsmith (2001) Implementation of the Working Time Regulation s, DTI Employment Relations Research Series No. 11
3 CBI Survey, June 2001
4 D. Goss and D. Adam-Smith Pragmatism and Compliance: Employer Responses to the Working Time Directive, Industrial Relations Journal, 32.3, 2001
5 Warwick University Pay and Working Time Survey 1999
6 A Guide to the Impact of the EU WTD in the UK, Blick 2001.
Reducing excessive working time
However, a recent study commissioned by the DTI found that 3 out of 10 enterprises had changed the way that their staff worked to ensure that they complied with the directive.7 The most common response was to change working practices to reduce the number of hours worked by individual workers. These changes most commonly consisted of revised shift arrangements and increases in staffing levels. Some positive examples included:
??? one food manufacturer which changed its shift patterns to avoid breaching the 48-hour working time limit when an overtime shift was worked
??? a retail company which supplemented its existing workforce with some agency staff
??? an NHS Trust which undertook a recruitment campaign to fill high vacancy levels
??? an engineering factory where regular overtime meant that employees were working an average of 47.5 hours per week. This average was reduced to 40 hours per week, but this involved working one weekend once every four weeks in order to maintain seven day per week production. The scheme was popular with employees because pay was the same for 40 hours as it had been for the 47.5-hour week and overtime and earnings were more predictable
??? dockworkers who accepted a new shift rota that cut long hours. The new scheme ensured that the docks were staffed when they needed to be and gave employees a basic working week of 36 hours, an average working week of 39 hours and regular pay for a 40 hour week.
In addition, some enterprises were using opt-outs whilst also making new attempts to manage working time. For example, in a well-known security company most staff wereworkin g around a 60-hour week. The company negotiated a collective agreement to apply the opt-out but also recognised that it needed to reduce its reliance on long hours in the medium term. As a result the company is asking clients to revise their contracts to allow more staffing and pay per hour and is making gradual progress.
Another company found that operational efficiency and customer satisfaction had both increased as a result of the revised working patterns introduced to reduce the working hours of staff. Several other firms found that new working patterns were simply more efficient than their old ways of working.
Another survey of four industrial sectors conducted by Warwick University8 found that positive responses to the WTRs varied by industrial sector. In the print and engineering sector the response largely focused on changes to shift work and cuts in the basic working week. In retail and in the NHS a popular strategy was to recruit more part time workers in order to extend service times and to respond to variable demand. In addition, the survey reported some increase in the use of variable hours (minimax) contracts and annualised hours.
Enforcing the 48-hour week
A third response to the WTRs has been simply to ignore the law or to try to evade it. The WTRs are overly complicated and there is a low degree of awareness of the detailed provisions amongst both employers and employees. The law has generally been enforced in the unionised parts of the economy but the TUC believes that there are high levels of both deliberate and accidental non-compliance in the non-unionised sector. Indeed, an early survey of 416 private companies found that 6 per cent of respondents were not
complying with the directive.9
In some cases there is evidence that employers have coerced workers to opt out of their rights. Although there are penalties for employers who pressurise workers to take up this option, the chances of detection are rather slim. A TUC report10 found that some employees were be ing pressurized to opt out of the 48-hour limit, whilst others were wrongly told that the regulations did not apply to them. The TUC believes that this situation has not yet been fully rectified.
The best approach is for the Government and the social partners to work together to raise awareness of the existing working time rights. There should then follow a rigorous campaign of enforcement to catch those who are deliberately ignoring the law.
7 F. Neathey and J. Arrowsmith (op cit)
8 Warwick University (op cit)
9 D. Goss and D. Adam-Smith (op cit)
10 Six Days a Week,TUC, 1999
How many employees are working long hours?
Trends since 1992
The LFS has been measuring working time on a consistent basis since 1992 and this allows us to assess trends in the'long hours culture' in the UK over nearly 10 years. In addition, it also provides an opportunity to measure the impact of the introduction of the WTRs in 1998. The chart below looks at the number of employees working more than 48 hours per week since 1992 and highlights the extent to which long hours still dominate working life in the UK.
According to the LFS just under 4 million employees still work in excess of 48 hours per week and this is an increase of well over half a million (625,000) compared with 1992. While there was some decline around the time of the introduction of the Regulations, this was on a small scale. It also appears to have been a one-off effect with the total number of employees working very long hours showing no
reduction at all over the past three years.
The gender split
Nearly 3.2 million men are now working more than 48 hours ??? 350,000 more than in 1992 (a proportional increase of 13 per cent over the past nine years). Over 750,000 women are now working more than 48 hours - 250,000 more than in 1992 (a proportional increase of 52 per cent over the past nine years).
Excessive working hours among male employees peaked in 1998 when just under 3.5 million were working more than 48 hours. This fell to around 3.2 million in 1999 and it has remained at this level since then. The story is slightly different for women employees. While compared to men a much smaller proportion of women work very long hours, the number doing so rose consistently throughout the 1990s
and thereappeared to be very little impact from the Directive. Unlike men, the total number of women
employees working in excess of 48 hours continued to increase after the Regulations were introduced in 1998.
Part of the explanation for this contrasting trend between the sexes is the fact that more women employees were entering the labour market in the period in question. Between summer 1998 and summer 1999 women employees increased by around 170,000 or proportionally by 1.5 per cent (male employees increased by around 110,000 or 0.8 per cent).
If we examine the overall proportion of employees working more than 48 hours (see chart above) we can see that there was some decline in the proportion of women employees working more than 48 hours between 1998 and 1999. However, this only amounted to a decline of one percentage point (down from 7 to 6 per cent) and there has been no further reduction since then.
The proportion of male employees working more than 48 hours fell by two percentage points between 1998 and 1999 (down from 27 to 25 per cent) and also fell by another percentage point in 2000 to stand at 24 per cent, and it has remained at this level since.
In spite of these marginal reductions in employees working very long hours in recent years the reality is that a larger proportion of employees are now working in excess of 48 hours compared with the early 1990s. In 1992 fifteen per cent of the employee workforce were working for more than 48 hours per week compared to 16 per cent in the summer of 2001. The very small decline in the proportion
of men working very long hours (down from 25 to 24 per cent) has been more than offset by an increase in the percentage of women fall ing into this category (up from 5 to 6 per cent).
Very long hours
The LFS also reveals the large number of employees that are working long hours far in excess of the 48-hour limit laid down by the Regulations. The latest figures (for summer 2001) show that 1.5 million employees are working more than 55 hours per week accounting for 6 per cent of all employees.
However, a greater proportion of male employees (9 per cent) are working in excess of this with nearly
one and a quarter million (1,230,000) putting in these kind of hours on a regular basis. Women employees are much less likely to be working this length of working week with only 2 per cent identified by the LFS. However, this still represents more than a quarter of a million (260,000) women.
Even more disturbingly, the LFS highlights that well over half a million (630,000) and more than 2 per cent of UK employees are working more than 60 hours per week. Most of these employees (530,000) are men accounting for 4 per cent of all male employees. Only 1 per cent of women employees (100,000 in total) work such excessive hours.
Employees working any extra hours (TUC opinion poll findings)
Rather than asking if employees work very long hours, the new TUC opinion poll simply asked all full-time employees if they were working any 'extra hours' (i.e. paid or unpaid overtime) in addition to their core weekly hours. These statistics are very informative because they provide a picture of the whole population of full-time employees who are working more hours than their 'standard' working week and their reasons for doing so.
According to the opinion poll two thirds of full-time employees (65 per cent) are putting in paid or unpaid overtime each week. Thirty per cent of full-time employees say that they are being paid overtime for putting in extra hours. Over a third (35 per cent) are working longer hours for no extra pay with the two main reasons for this working pattern attributed to unmanageable workloads (22 per cent) an d enjoyment of one's job (12 per cent).
Expressed as a proportion of all those full-time employees working extra hours, nearly a half (46 per cent) of them are getting paid overtime with the remainder engaged in unpaid overtime. A third (34 per cent) of them are working long hours as a direct result of work intensification and around a fifth (19 per cent) are doing so apparently voluntarily because they enjoy their job so much.
Full-time employees working extra hours
all full-timeall full-time
I don't normally work extra hours29%N/A
None of these5%N/A
All those working extra hours65%100%
I get paid overtime30%46%
I have so much work to do22%34%
Everyone else does - don't want
to be seen as slacking1%1%
I enjoy my job so much12%19%
Apart from highlighting the extent to which full-time employees work extra hours in the UK, a major finding of the opinion poll is the degree to which unpaid overtime is linked to work intensification and the need for employees to deal with unmanageable workloads. In contrast, the commonly held belief that many employees are working long hours in order to impress both their colleagues and
employers is not substantiated by these findings. Only one per cent of all those working extra hours gave this as their main reason.
In light of these trends it is hardly surprising that the UK is the country with the highest average hours worked per week by full-time employees across the European Union. This measure is published annually in the European Labour Force Survey and the latest figures for all the EU countries (for 2000) are set out in the chart below.
There is a significant gap between the average weekly hours of full-time employees in the UK compared with the rest of the EU. The average in the UK is 43.6 hours while the EU average is more than three hours less than this, stand ing at 40.3 hours. Compared with some countries (e.g. Belgium) the weekly average in the UK is five hours greater.
Who works long hours?
The LFS enables us to draw a picture of which employees are likely to work in excess of 48 hours and this shows that the long-hours culture is especially prevalent in certain occupations and sectors and also some regions of the UK. In addition the new TUC opinion poll findings provide a breakdown of the proportion of all full-time employees working any extra hours classified by social class.
The table below shows the large variations in the likelihood of employees from different occupations to work in excess of 48 hours per week. Managers and other senior officials are the most likely with a third of such employees regularly working beyond 48 hours. Over 1.1 million, a third of all such workers, have a weekly working pattern of this kind. Most of the employees in this occupation who are working
long hours are men (940,000) and this accounts for over two fifths (41 per cent) of male managers. Just under 170,000 women managers work beyond 48 hours, representing under a fifth (17 per cent) of the total.
Exactly a quarter of employees in the professional occupations (700,000 in total) are also working in excess of 48 hours per week and in this case the incidence of long hours is the same among both male and female employees. Four hundred thousand male professionals are working on this basis compared with 300,000 women. This is the one occupational grouping where, proportionally speaking,
women are as likely to be working very long hours as men. The sectoral data strongly suggest that the main reason for the high incidence of long hours among women professionals may be women teachers working many additional hours outside the classroom (doing lesson preparation etc.).
Occupational breakdown of employees working
more than 48 hours
Managers & senior officials1,109, 000940,000169,000
Clerical & secretarial118,00073,00045,000
Sales & customer services87,00064,00023,000
Two other occupational groupings with a higher than average incidence of long working hours are Process, Plant and Machine Operatives and Skilled Trades, many of whom are employed in manufacturing. Over a quarter (26 per cent) of employees in the former occupation work
more than 48 hours accounting for well over half a million workers while in the latter a similar number (albeit a slightly lower percentage, 22 per cent) do so.
In both these occupations only 6 per cent of women employees are working very long hours and in addition there are relatively few women employed in these occupations in any case. In total only around 40,000 women employees in these two occupations were working more than 48 hours compared with nearly 1.1 million men. This suggests that excessive working hours in these two occupations are largely a case of men working overtime to boost their basic pay.
This contrasts with the experience of many salaried professional and managerial employees (both men and women) who are trapped in a long-hours culture which is linked to workload and employer expectations and where the immediate impact on remuneration may not be so clearcut. However, in their case the potential impact on pay in the longer-term may be very detrimental if reducing their
working hours and thereby falling behind with their workload damages their status and career prospects within the workplace. This conclusion and the related finding abo ut the impact of overtime pay on long working hours in the non-professional occupations is clearly backed up by the breakdown by social class of the reasons why employees work extra hours from the TUC opinion poll.
Two other occupational groupings at nearly opposite ends of the spectrum ??? (i) Associate Professional & Technical occupations, and (ii) Elementary occupations ??? come next in the long-hours league. Thirteen per cent (nearly 430,000) of associate professionals work more than 48 hours per week and 10 per cent (or 320,000) of those in less skilled occupations do so.
Associate Professional & Technical occupations include jobs such as technicians, nurses, police officers (sergeant and below), train drivers, journalists, personnel officers and sales representatives. Unlike the pattern in the Professional occupations, many more men than women in these occupations work in excess of 48 hours (18 per cent compared to 6 per cent of women employees).
This reflects the trend in the 'non-professional' groupings and suggests that men working long hours for overtime payments is part of the explanation. In addition, many women falling within this occupational grouping are employed in public sector jobs where excessive hours are limited to some extent (in contrast to the experience of many women teachers who fall within the Professional occupational category).
By and large Elementary occupations cover relatively unskilled jobs such as labourers, porters, bar staff, cleaners, security guards and shelf stackers. In these low-paid occupations the large numbers of men (290,000 or 16 per cent) working long hours will be doing so simply in order to generate a relatively modest income level from overtime payments.
One key reason for the low proportion of women employees (2 per cent) working such long hours is the fact that many of the jobs (e.g. cleaners, waitresses, shelf stackers) where they predominate in this occupational grouping are held on a part-time basis. This is al so clearly the case in the two service-based occupations ??? Personal Services and Sales & Customer Services ??? where women employees predominate (respectively comprising 84 per cent and 71 per cent of all employees).
To some extent the main working time issue in these two occupations(and the Elementary occupation) is that many part-time women employees appear to want (or need) to work longer hours to increase their modest take-home pay (see Chapter 5 for a more detailed analysis of this issue).
Social class breakdown (TUC Opinion Poll findings)
As shown in the table below, the opinion poll data confirm the thrust of the occupational trends from the LFS and also highlight the fairly clear social class divide between those employees working extra hours for overtime payments and those who are engaged in unpaid overtime either voluntarily (i.e. because they enjoy their job) or largely against their will (i.e. because of heavy workloads).
Some of the key trends highlighted in the table are as follows:
??? working extra hours (as opposed to working very long hours) is more equally spread across the different social classes. However, managerial and professional workers are still the most likely to be putting in extra hours (e.g. 71 per cent of the ABs compared to 63 per cent of Social Grade D)
??? there is a clear sliding scale when one looks at the incidence of largely involuntary extra hours worked to deal with heavy workloads (reason given by 38 per cent of ABs, 26 per cent of C1s, 10 per cent of C2s and 8 per cent of Ds) and also those doing extra hours because they enjoy their job so much (reason given by 16 per cent of ABs, 14 per cent of C1s, 7 per cent of C2s and 9 per cent of Ds)
??? the sliding scale is in the opposite direction when the link between extra hours and overtime payments is analysed (reason given by 16 per cent of ABs, 22 per cent of C1s, 43 per cent of C2s and 46 per cent of Ds).
Full-time employees working extra hours by social class
I don't normally work extra hours25%29%31%35%
None of these4%7%6%2%
All those working extra hours71%62%61%63%
I get paid overtime16%22%43%46%
I have so much work to do38&%10%8%
Everyone else does - don't want
to be seen as slacking1%*1%*
I enjoy my job so much16%14%7%9%
Note: Insufficient sample size to provide any reliable estimates for
Social Grade E and this also applies where * appears in the table.
In a nutshell this shows that managerial and professional workers (i.e. ABs) are largely working extra hours because of work pressures with this reason accounting for over half of all ABs who say that they are working extra hours. In contrast, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of ABs working extra hours say that they are doing so because they enjoy their job so much and the same proportion say that it is because they are getting paid overtime.
Compare this with the position of C2s and Ds who are much more likely to be working extra hours for financial reasons (respectively 71 per cent and 73 per cent of all those in these two social grades who are working extra hours). And C2s and Ds are much less likely than managerial/professional employees to be working extra hours because of a heavy workload (respectively 17 per cent and 14 per cent of all those in these two social grades who are working extra hours) or simply out of enjoyment of their job (respectively 12 per cent and 14 per cent of all those in these two social grades who are working extra hours).
C1s fall somewhere in between these two camps but with a much greater affinity with ABs (i.e. the main reason for working extra hours is heavy workloads and overtime is much less prevalent than among C2s and Ds).
As shown in the chart below the difference between the incidence of excessive working hours in the public and private sectors is not as clear-cut as one might expect. While, overall, a la rger proportion of employees in the private sector work more than 48 hours (17 per cent compared to 12 per cent in the public sector) this is not indicative of the pattern for both sexes.
While men working in the private sector are more likely to be working such long hours (25 per cent compared to 19 per cent in the public sector) the trend among women is the reverse (5 per cent of private sector employees working 48 hours+ compared to 9 per cent in the public sector). Women account for over two fifths (43 per cent or 340,000) of all those employees in the public sector who are working more than 48 hours (the equivalent percentage in the private sector is only 13 per cent).
As the detailed sectoral data below suggests, this trend among women employees in the public sector probably reflects the large number of women teachers working for long periods outside their normal classroom teaching hours. Nearly quarter of a million women employees (around one in six) in the education sector say they put in more than 48 hours a week. This is more than double the proportion
found in the three industrial sectors with the next highest incidence of very long hours among women employees (i.e. seven per cent in Transport & Communication, Business Services, and Other).
Occupational breakdown ofemployees working
more than 48 hours
Agriculture & fishing62,00058,000*
Mining & quarrying42,00042,000*
Hotels & catering133,000101,00032,000
Transport & communication450,000420,00030,000
Health & social work199,00089,000110,000
Note: * shows that the sample size in the LFS is insufficient to provide
a reliable estimate.
In contrast to women, the prevalence of long working hours among male employees is evident across all industrial sectors. The proportion of men working in excess of 48 hours a week ranges from 15 per cent for those in PublicAdministration to 45 per cent for those in Mining & Quarrying. While the latter sector and Agriculture & Fishing (37 per cent) have easily the highest percentages working excessive hours, the numbers of employees involved (100,000 in total across the two sectors) are much smaller than in some of the large industrial sectors.
For example, over 700,000 male employees (22 per cent) in manufacturing alone are working such long hours and in each of four other sectors around 400,000 employees are affected: Transport & Communication (420,000 or 32 per cent); Retail (410,000 or 23 per cent); Business Services (390,000 or
26 per cent); and, Construction (360,000 or 30 per cent). An identical proportion (22 per cent) are working long hours in the Hotels & Catering (100,000) and Finance (120,000) sectors.
There is nearly double the proportion of male employees working very long hours in Education (30 per cent) compared with women employees and this accounts for 170,000 men in total. However, this is still much fewer than the quarter of a million women in Education working such long hours, reflecting the high concentration of women in this particular sector. Male employees in the other two industries where the public sector predominates (i.e. Public Administration and Health & Social Work) have a lower
incidence of employees working more than 48 hours (15 and 17 per cent respectively). However, a combined total of more than a quarter of a million men in these two se ctors are working more than 48 hours.
As can be seen in the chart below, there is a clear North/South divide in the degree to which employees
work more than 48 hours and there is also a roughly inverse correlation with the health of the regional jobs market. In other words, those regions with the highest employment rates (i.e. most jobs per head of population) also tend to be those regions with the greatest percentage of employees working more than 48 hours per week. The one exception to this is London, which tends to buck the North/South jobs
divide (e.g. the unemployment rate is twice that of the rest of southern England) but which has a high concentration of jobs (e.g. in the City) renowned for very long hours.
The number of employees working more than 48 hours in each of the UK regions is as follows: South East (632,000); London (561,000); Eastern (400,000); South West (324,000); East Midlands (315,000); West Midlands (355,000); Yorkshire & Humberside (318,000); North East (138,000); North West (373,000); Wales (148,000); Scotland (304,000); Northern Ireland (68,000).
The impact of union membership
The impact of union membership has not, as some might
have anticipated, led to a sharper decline in unionized employees working more than 48 hours since the
introduction of the Regulations in 1998. In fact there has been very little change in the number of employee union members working more than 48 hours in this recent period. In 1997 over 1.2 million union members were working this pattern and the latest data (for 2000) shows that this figure
is relatively unchanged.
According to the LFS, unionised employees in 2000 made up 31 per cent of all employees working more than 48 hours. The table below provides a breakdown of all those employees working more than 48 hours by union membership and gender.
Union membership status ofemployees working
more than 48 hours
All employees wor king1,220,0002,710,000
more than 48 hours(31%)(69%)
Male employees working895,0002,295,000
more than 48 hours(28%)(72%)
Female employees working325,000410,000
more than 48 hours(44%)(56%)
Note: the latest available data from the LFS for union members working
long hours is Autumn 2000.
The gender breakdown shows that there is a considerable difference between men and women union members working for more than 48 hours a week. Male trade unionists account for 28 per cent of all men working such hours while female union members make up nearly half (44 per cent) of all women working for more than 48 hours. This contrast between male and female trade unionists is largely explained by the impact of long working hours among the teaching profession, where women predominate and where union membership rates are very high.
Access to flexible working time arrangements
Both the LFS and the new TUC opinion poll provide us with information on the attitudes of employees about their satisfaction with the length of their working hours (i.e. if they want to work shorter hours) and also whether they have access to flexible working time arrangements in their workplace.
Since last year the LFS has begun to assess the number of employees who say that they would like to work shorter hours in their current job. From the beginning of 2000 two new questions were added to the survey, as follows:
1. Would you prefer to work shorter hours than at present in your current job?, and
2. Would that still be true even if it meant less pay?
(Two questions following a similar format have been asked in the survey since 1992 of those employees who say that they are looking for a new job, i.e., they have been asked if they want to work shorter hours in any new job and also if they would accept less pay in these circumstances).
In addition, the TUC opinion poll asked all full-time employees if they were able to vary or change their
working hours under a number of initiatives ranging from flexi-time systems to having a choice of switching from full-time employment to part-time employment. The current degree of access to the latter kind of scheme is of particular interest in light of the recent recommendations of the Work and Parents Taskforce which are designed to promote such initiatives in order to offer greater 'work flexibility' to parents of young children.
Access to flexible working time arrangements
While the limited impact of the WTRs since 1998 will be one of major reasons behind the continuing large numbers of employees who say that they would like to work shorter hours, another important factor is the availability of flexible working time arrangements. While many individuals will want to work shorter hours simply to address excessive working time, a proportion of employees will want to do so in order to achieve a greater degree of work-life balance (e.g. fitting work around family commitments, working shorter hours to pursue interests outside work etc.).
In order to assess the current level of access to flexible working time arrangements in UK workplaces the TUC asked employees if they could vary or change their hours in five of the most common ways. In addition, employees were asked if they always had to work their stated hours and if they were never allowed to vary them. The findings, broken down by gender, are set out in the table below.
Ability to vary orchange working hours
(full-time employees only)
% all% all% all
Access to formal flexitime
Could easily switch to part-
Could easily change start and
finish times (same hours)38%38%38%
Can work from home21%23%18%
Allowed time off for medical
appointments and for
domestic reasons (e.g.
builders, sick children etc.)59%59%57%
I always have to work my
stated hours and cannot alter
them in any way42%4 1%44%
None of these4%5%3%
The first point to note is that over two fifths (42 per cent) of full-time employees have no degree of flexibility at all when it comes to changing their stated working hours, and that this applies equally to men and women. The other significant finding is that only 16 per cent of employees (and only 22 per cent of women) can easily switch to parttime work. This clearly demonstrates that the Government's
strategy to promote flexible working hours under the auspices of the Work and Parents Taskforce's
recommendations faces some real challenges.
The poll findings also show that achieving flexible working hours via a formal flexitime system is still only available to around a quarter of employees (27 per cent) and that less than two fifths (38 per cent) have access to a very slimmed down version of flexitime (i.e. having the ability to modify start and finish times while working the same hours).
While nearly three fifths (59 per cent) say that they do not need to take time off to account for circumstances such as doctor's appointment or to let builders in, the fact that two fifths of employees do is a shocking indictment of the wholly inflexible approach of many UK employers to working time. And while over a fifth of employees say that they are able to work at home, recent TUC research11 suggests that there is a real danger that one downside of this kind of flexibility is that it could lead to an
extension of white collar work intensification outside the formal workplace.
All in all, these results suggest that a substantial number of employees wanting to work shorter hours could be accommodated if employers had the foresight to make a wider range of flexible working arrangements available to employees.
Wanting to work shorter hours - the headline figures
The latest data (for summer 2001) shows that 10.3 million employees say that they would like to work shorter hours in their current job and that 2.5 million would still like to do so even if this involved a pay cut. This means that over two fifths of all employees (42 per cent) say that they want to work shorter hours and that one in 10 would do so for less pay.
Nearly half (47 per cent) of all male employees ??? over 6 million ??? say that they want to work shorter hours and 9 per cent ??? 1.2 million ??? say that they would be willing to take a pay cut to do so. Over 4 million women employees, more than a third (36 per cent) of the total, say that they want shorter hours and 11 per cent ??? 1.3 million ??? say that a pay cut would not deter them.
The LFS allows us to undertake an occupational analysis of these employees who say that they would like to work shorter hours using these two criteria (i.e. those wanting to work shorter hours and also those that say that they would work shorter hours for less pay). The table below looks at the first group, i.e. all those employees who say that they would like to work shorter hours without the issue of pay
being raised in the question.
Occupational breakdown ofemployees wanting to work
Managers & senior officials1,906,0001,360,000546,000
Clerical & secretarial1,422,000313,0001,109,000
Sales & customer services527,000180,000347,000
These figures highlight the very high levels of dissatisfaction with working time not only among those
occupations with a long-standing tradition of a 'long hours' culture but across all occupations. For exa mple, it is not too surprising that nearly three fifths (57 per cent) of Managers & Senior Officials say that they would like to work shorter hours considering that a third of them are currently working more than 48 hours a week. However, while only 3 per cent of Clerical & Secretarial employees are working
such long hours nearly two fifths (39 per cent) of them still say that they would like to work shorter hours. Clearly, among these employees (especially women) the desire for working time flexibility may be a key factor as much as a desire to reduce long hours.
The largest share of employees wanting to work shorter hours are to be found among the three managerial/professional occupations and the two occupations that are highly concentrated in manufacturing (i.e. Skilled Trades and Operatives). Nearly 5 million managers and professionals
say that they want to work shorter hours and over 2 million employees from the Skilled Trades and Operatives occupational groupings. Many of the managers and professionals wanting to work shorter hours are women (1.8 million or 37 per cent) while this is much less the case in the other two occupations (quarter of a million or 11 per cent).
In the other two occupations where women predominate ??? Personal Services and Sales & Customer Services ??? the percentage wanting shorter hours is not quite as high (around a quarter) and an element of this difference is explained by the large number of women working part-time in these occupations. In addition, there is a fairly substantial demand for longer working hours among part-timers in
these two occupations with around a fifth saying that they want to work more hours. It is more likely than not that this trend reflects the aspirations of many low-paid women part-timers who are clearly eager to increase their modest take-home pay by increasing the number of hours they work.
The following table shows what happens once all these employees are asked if they would still want to work shorter hours even if this meant less pay. Not surprisingly, this economic reality translates into a much smaller, albeit still very significant, number of employees saying that they want to work fewer hours (i.e. 2.5 million or 10 per cent in total). Nearly one in six employees in the two highest
paid occupational groupings (Managerial & Senior Officials and Professional) say that they want to work shorter hours even under these circumstances and the highest rate of all is found among women professionals (one in five or 19 per cent).
Interpreting the findings from this question needs some care as the definition of 'less pay' will mean different things for employees from different occupations. For example, most of these in the managerial and professional occupations will be salaried employees and while some may be equating less pay in these circumstances with a loss of performance-related bonus payments, it is undoubtedly the case that many will be viewing the scenario as a potential 'loss of pay'.
For example, as shown by the findings from the TUC opinion poll long working hours in these occupations are more often than not generated by workload and employer expectations. In line with this employees may be assuming, quite logically, that reducing their working hours will ultimately lead to weakened career prospects or even demotion and that this will have a exceptionally detrimental impact on their long-term pay prospects rather than resulting in any overnight cut in their salaries.
Occupational breakdown ofemployees who would work
shorterhours forless pay
Managers & senior officials496,000307,000190,000
Clerical & secretarial386,00047,000339,000
Personal services126,00020,000106,0 00
Sales & customer services124,00027,00097,000
The situation for other occupations is clearly very different with the prospect of an immediate pay cut (e.g. resulting from a loss of overtime payments) hanging over any decision to reduce their working hours. This probably explains much of the sharp contrast between those employees from the Skilled Trades and Operatives occupations who initially say that they want to reduce working hours and the actual numbers who say they would do so in the face of a pay cut. For example, nearly half of
skilled trades people and operatives (47 and 48 per cent respectively) say they want to work fewer hours but the respective percentages for those willing to do so in the face of a pay cut is 8 and 10 per cent.
In some other occupations the predominant pay issue may be different from both the above scenarios. For example, there may be many part-timers working relatively long hours in the service-based occupations who want to reduce their hours but who simply cannot afford the loss of hourlybased
The 'overtime challenge'
The findings from the LFS showing the considerable number of employees (especially from the Skilled Trades and Operatives occupations) who wish to work fewer hours but who feel that they cannot afford to lose substantial overtime payments, poses a real challenge for both unions and employers. The current imbalance between core pay and overtime payments for many employees working long hours is clearly something that employers and unions need to work together to address in the run-up to the end of the
However, unions and employers should view this as an opportunity to reform long-standing pay structures that tend to either necessitate or promote excessive working hours. And as we have highlighted in Chapter 1, there are already case studie s highlighting best practice in formulating new pay structures linked to hours reduction strategies. These agreements have enabled workers to reduce excessive working hours by enhancing core pay and implementing organisational change to
In many cases, strategies of this kind have, quite rightly, focused on measures to improve productivity and to increase output within core hours. Unions and employers will need to address an exciting and ambitious agenda around the introduction of new forms of work organisation, skills development and investment.
Looked at in this light the removal of the opt-out could be a boost for the Government's overall strategy to improve productivity. As one Government Minister said recently when launching the next round of the Work-Life Balance Challenge Fund ??? 'Any company that offers its employees a better balance between work and home reaps the rewards of increased job satisfaction among the workforce, reduced staff turnover and higher productivity.' 12
12 Bosses Urged to Go For the Work-Life Balance Goal, DTI press release, 16 January 2002
The sectoral analysis (see table below) bears out many of the findings from the occupational breakdown on the previous page. For example, while half of all manufacturing employees (2.2 million in total) say that they want to reduce their working hours only around one in ten (or half a million) say that they are willing to do so for less pay. A similar pattern, to a lesser or greater degree, is seen among all the other industrial sectors.
Sectoral breakdown ofemployees wanting to work
Wanting to workWould do so
shorter hoursfor less pay
Agriculture & fishing75,00015,000
Mining & quarrying56,00013,000
Hotels & catering266,00064,000
Transport & communication869,000182,000
Health & social work985,000295,000
This pattern reflecting the conflict of choice over reducing working hours and the economic implications of such a decision are by and large fairly similar across the UK regions, as shown in the chart below. The main exception is Northern Ireland where the desire to work shorter hours is significantly lower than in other parts of the UK. This chimes with other findings for this particular region suggesting that Northern Ireland employees have the highest levels of satisfaction with their working hours. For example, only 11 per cent of employees in the region are working more than 48 hours per week compared to the national average of 16 per cent. In addition, only 4 per cent want to work longer hours compared to the national
average of 8 per cent.
The two regions with the next lowest proportions of employees citing a wish to reduce their working hours are the East Midlands and Wales (37per cent in both instances). This is not too surprising in the case of Wales which has one of the lowest incidences of very long hours among its workforce (i.e. 13 per cent of the region's employees work more than 48 hours compared to the national average of 16 per cent). However, this certainly cannot explain the finding for the East Midlands as it is one of the regions with the highest percentage of employees working more than 48 hours (18 per cent) as well as being one of the regions with the lowest percentage of employees wanting to reduce their working hours.
Employees who want (or need) to work longer hours
Trends since 1996
Since 1996 the LF S has been measuring the number of employees who say that they would like to work longer hours in their current job, at the basic rate of pay (i.e. not overtime rates), given the opportunity. As shown in the charts below, over recent years there has been a general decline in the number of workers expressing a desire to work longer hours in their existing job. More than a third less employees now say that they want to work longer hours compared with five years ago.
The total number of employees falling into this category has declined from 2.7 million (13 per cent of all employees) in 1996 to 1.7 million (8 per cent of all employees) in 2001. The largest fall has been among full-timers wanting longer hours, who have declined by nearly a half ??? falling from 1.5 million (9 per cent) in 1996 to 800,000 (5 per cent) now.
The rate of decline has been less among part-timers wanting longer hours, who have decreased by less than a quarter in the past five years (down from 1.2 million, or 24 per cent, to 950,000 or 17 per cent). Not surprisingly, part-timers account for more than half of all employees wanting to work longer hours although they only constitute a quarter of the employee workforce.
The reason for the fall-off in demand among employees for longer working hours in recent years can be
attributed to a number of factors. One factor is the tightening labour market ??? employment has grown
strongly since 1996 and this has meant that many employees who previously wanted to work longer hours in their jobs will have been able to switch to new full-time jobs that meet these requirements.
For example, many part-timers who were previously working on this basis because they could not find full-time work have now been able to make the transition to full-time employment. This has consequently led to a decrease in the number of so-called 'involuntary' part-timers wanting to work longer hours.
In addition, the changing employment situation since 19 96 will have strengthened the bargaining power of both fulltime and part-time employees who want to stay in their current job while increasing their working hours. Due to the tight labour market in some parts of the country employers will have been under greater pressure to accede to such demands and this will have fuelled the overall decline in
the demand for longer hours.
Finally, the increasing demand among some employees for working hours that promote 'work-life' balance will have been a factor in the reduction in those wanting to work longer hours. This is supported by the analysis in the previous section highlighting the large number of employees who currently want to work shorter hours.
Other measures of underemployment in the LFS
In addition to measuring those wanting longer hours in their existing job, the LFS provides estimates of other employees who could be said to be under-employed. This mainly comprises employees who are looking to work longer hours by finding another job (i.e. by either looking for another full-time job with longer hours or by looking for an additional part-time job).
The latest data (summer 2001) shows that around 370,000 employees fell into this category with over 200,000 saying that they would like to work longer hours in a new job and 170,000 saying that they would like an additional job. Of those wanting an additional job 110,000 were currently
working part-time and nearly 60,000 were full-timers looking for additional part-time work.
13 J. Jenkins and R. Laux (1999) 'Using the LFS to estimate time-related
under-employment ', Labour Market Trends (August issue)
Measuring 'true under-employment'
Of course the reality is that many of those employees who say that they want to work longer hours in either their existing job or by gaining new/additional employment may already be working a full working week and this clearly does not constitute true under-employment. For example, the ILO has established a standard for under-employm ent which specifies that it should only include those workers who 'worked less than a threshold relating to working time' (i.e. that it should not include those who are already
working in excess of average working hours per week).13
For example, if those employees already working 40 hours or more per week are excluded from the analysis the LFS shows that the three main cases of under-employment are reduced as follows:
??? wanting to work longer hours in existing job ??? all employees (1,740,000); employees working less than 40 hours per week (1,290,000)
??? wanting to work longer hours in different job ??? all employees (200,000); employees working less than 40 hours per week (175,000)
??? wanting an additional job ??? all employees (170,000); employees working less than 40 hours per week (135,000).
Using this form of analysis shows that in total there are currently around 1.6 million employees working less than 40 hours per week who would like to work longer hours either in their existing job or in new/additional employment.
A more detailed picture
The following analyses are based on those employees who say that they would like to work additional hours in their current job, irrespective of their current weekly working hours (i.e. the groups in the two charts on the previous page). In summer 2001 this constituted 1,740,000 employees or eight per cent of the total employee workforce.
Occupational and industrial breakdown
The chart below shows that there are three occupations where the proportion wanting to work longer hours is well above the national average (i.e. eight per cent of all employees). They are the Personal Services, Sales & Customer Services, and Elementary occupational groupings. It is fairly self-evident that one of the key factors behind this particular trend is the prevalence of part-time work in these
three occupations and also that low-paid part-time work is a fact of life for many employees in these occupations. Not surpri singly, many of these employees are keen to work longer hours to supplement what in many cases will be a very modest take-home pay packet.
It is also not very surprising that managers are the least likely to express a desire to work longer hours as the LFS data on working hours per week shows that this occupational grouping is already working very long hours. In addition, part-time employees are in the minority at the managerial level and low pay is not really a factor.
The overall picture also conceals the degree to which part-time employees want to work longer hours. For example, around a fifth of part-timers in Personal Services, Sales & Customer Services and the Elementary occupational grouping want to work longer hours. The vast majority of these employees will be women and this highlights how low pay among women working part-time is a key factor behind the
current levels of under-employment in the UK economy.
A sectoral breakdown confirms the main thrust of the occupational analysis ??? with the highest proportion of employees wanting to work longer hours found in those where part-time work and low pay are most prevalent. For example, 16 per cent of all employees and nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of part-timers in Hotels & Catering say that they would like to work longer hours in their existing job.
However, there is very little difference overall between the private and public sectors with a slightly higher proportion of public sector employees wanting to work longer hours (five per cent of full-timers and 17 per cent of part-timers as opposed to respective figures of four per cent and 16 per cent in the private sector).
There is some regional variation in the pattern of underemployment across the country as shown in the chart below. The lowest proportion of employees saying they want to work longer hours is in Northern Ireland (four per cent) with the highest proportion, at ten per cent, to be found in both the North East and Scotland.
Focusing on part-time employees alone, the highest incidence of a desire to work longer hours is again found in the North East and Scotland (respectively 21 and 22 per cent of part-timers in these two regions). The lowest proportion of part-timers wanting to work longer hours is to be found in Northern Ireland, at 10 per cent.
The findings of this reportshow that the UK is still far from the situation where the jobs available on the labour market match the working time preferences of workers. This is despite the implementation of the EU Working Time Directive and numerous Government initiatives to promote flexibility. In contrast to much of the rest of northern Europe, working time patterns in the UK are still characterised by excessive hours and a rigid adherence to a working time 'norm' that is increasingly a relic of the labour market of the past.
This peculiar UK approach to the management of working time is both bad for the health and well being of employees and a serious obstacle to the Government's aim of tackling the UK's 'productivity gap'. The implementation of the 'individual opt-out' in the 1998 Regulations and the reliance on exhorting employers to offer more flexible working patterns has made it difficult to generate a decisive
This has to change. The 'individual opt-out' that allows employees to agree to work for more than an average of 48 hours must be reviewed by June 2003 and will almost certainly disappear soon afterwards. This key development should focus the minds of the social partners on developing a strategy to tackle this issue. As John Monks stresses in the foreword, this report is designed to launch a major national debate on working time policy - a debate focused on reducing excessive hours and delivering working time flexibility that meets the needs of both employers and workers.
There are three key messages that might be drawn from the analysis presented in this report.
First, the Government must not argue for the extension of the individual opt-out beyond 2003 and should instead use this as an end-date for a national campaign that promotes collective agreements to reduce excessive hours and extend the use of flexible working time arrangements.
The next message is that employers and unions have a central role to play in showing that agreements of this kind can become the norm. This will require a serious reassessment of working time arrangements and staffing levels in many workplaces. Responding to the scale of the working time challenge in the UK requires both ambition and innovation.
Yet the challenge of finally introducing a 48-hour ceiling also presents real opportunities to address a broad agenda about the organisation of work, training and skills, and levels of investment. Embracing the agenda of shorter working hours and greater flexibility will enable unions and employers to address some of the UK's fundamental productivity problems.
Finally, as we have highlighted in this report, the demand for shorter hours among many employees is not always to do with long hours, but rather a plea for working time flexibility that enables employees to reconcile work with family life and other interests outside the workplace. While the TUC has by and large supported the thrust of the Government's promotion of work-life balance, the findings of this report suggest that further policy measures are required on this front if more employers are to seriously consider this agenda. In particular, the TUC would like to see the proposed new right to flexible working for parents of young children strengthened and extended to all workers.