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Unpaid overtime leaves Aussies $8k out of pocket annually: Report

By Shandel McAuliffe | |6 minute read
Unpaid overtime leaves Aussies $8k out of pocket annually: Report

New data showed overtime is costing Aussie workers more than just money, and an expert is strengthening the call for employees to have the right to disconnect from their jobs.

The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work’s latest survey showed the typical worker spent 4.3 hours a week doing unpaid work — or 15 per cent of total working hours.

This means the average working Aussie spends 224.5 hours every year carrying out work beyond what they’re paid for, which is equal to six standard 38-hour working weeks.


Based on these figures, it’s estimated that the average worker lost over $8,000 a year or $315 every fortnight due to time spent performing unpaid labour.

According to the report, the concerning labour trend sees employers benefiting from a total of 2.5 billion hours, equivalent to $92 billion in unpaid wages.

These figures come from an annual survey conducted for The Australia Institute (TAI) between 6 and 9 September, which surveyed around 1,410 adults, of whom 876 were employed.

The report was released one day ahead of the “Go Home on Time Day” on 23 November — an initiative run by The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work and now in its 14th year.

Research author and economist at TAI, Eliza Littleton, said the report showed overtime is a “prevalent and systemic issue in Australia, primarily driven by working conditions within the control of employers”.

“Working beyond scheduled hours has long been a problem for Australian workers. The nature and scale of overtime has more recently been shaped by the rise in flexible working arrangements and the integration of information and communication technology at work,” she stated.

She also highlighted that Australian workers are being robbed of time and money amid a cost-of-living crisis.

“With workers’ share of national income at the lowest point ever, a focus on reducing unpaid overtime would improve quality of life and ease the cost-of-living pressure for millions,” Ms Littleton said.

But the report noted time and money aren’t the only things being stolen from employees.

Survey results showed that the most commonly experienced negative consequences from working overtime were physical tiredness (35 per cent), followed by stress and anxiety (32 per cent), and being mentally drained (31 per cent ), each affecting around a third of workers.

Aside from its detrimental impact on wellbeing, data also showed that overtime’s negative effect spills over to personal matters.

Over a quarter of workers reported that overtime interfered with their personal life and relationships (27 per cent), while a further 17 per cent of those surveyed said that it led to disrupted or unfulfilling non-work time.

Notably, overtime also impacts workplace productivity and morale. Working beyond their mandated hours also reduced the motivation of 22 per cent of the respondents to work, while 1 per cent reported poor job satisfaction.

“The prevalence of overtime suggests that ‘availability creep’ has eroded the boundaries between work and life,” Ms Littleton commented.

Ms Littleton called for the update of workplace laws in order to address the prevalent labour issue.

“Workplace laws could be updated, including creating a ‘right to disconnect’ as recommended by the Senate select committee into work and care,” she said.

Earlier this month, the Senate select committee on work and care released an interim report into the rights of workers to disconnect from their workplace.

As part of its recommendations, the report called for changes in the Fair Work Act, as well as other legislation to enable workers to “enact a right to disconnect” from work.

Part of the recommendations included: “the right to enable and support productive work from home and flexibility of work; protect the right of workers to disconnect from their job outside of contracted hours and to enforce this right with their employer; place a positive duty on employers to reasonably accommodate the right wherever possible; and allow employees to appeal to the Fair Work Commission where the right is not being enacted by employers.”

Some of the biggest unions in the country are currently pushing for more Australians to have the ‘right to disconnect’, which now exists for employees of Victoria Police and Queensland Teachers after winning their respective workplace negotiations.

This article was originally featured on 23 November 2022 in Real Estate Business.

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel has recently returned to Australia after working in the UK for eight years. Shandel's experience in the UK included over three years at the CIPD in their marketing, marcomms and events teams, followed by two plus years with The Adecco Group UK&I in marketing, PR, internal comms and project management. Cementing Shandel's experience in the HR industry, she was the head of content for Cezanne HR, a full-lifecycle HR software solution, for the two years prior to her return to Australia.

Shandel has previous experience as a copy writer, proofreader and copy editor, and a keen interest in HR, leadership and psychology. She's excited to be at the helm of HR Leader as its editor, bringing new and innovative ideas to the publication's audience, drawing on her time overseas and learning from experts closer to home in Australia.

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