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How unpaid hours hurt employees and businesses

The UK workforce is grappling with an overtime epidemic and unpaid overtime, which affects the welfare of employees and the prosperity of companies. A recent survey by Protime UK clearly demonstrates the severity of this issue and its impact on employee happiness and corporate performance.

The scope of the problem

The study’s findings, which surveyed 2,000 UK workers, indicate that overwork is ingrained in the country:

  • Unpaid overtime: 54% of workers in the UK put in two to four days a month without compensation. This translates to an astounding 19 million days of unpaid labor nationwide.
  • Job dissatisfaction: 5% of workers intend to leave their current post within the next six months to avoid working too hard. Due to their overwhelming workloads, 42% of workers reject management responsibilities, and 49% say they won’t take on any additional work.

Key findings

The research highlights several critical issues contributing to the overwork epidemic:

  • Hybrid work challenges: 33% of employees working in and out of the office are likelier to put in additional unpaid hours.
  • Unrealistic workloads: 28% of workers report that they cannot complete their tasks within the standard workday, leading to extra hours.
  • Managerial failures: 27% of employees believe managers should do more to distribute work evenly. Additionally, 20% feel that the tasks they are given are unrealistic for the available time.

Impact on performance and engagement

Overwork not only affects employee health but also hampers business performance:

  • Reduced productivity: 38% of workers say they are less productive due to overwork. Furthermore, 29% feel that their work quality suffers.
  • Strained relationships: 28% of employees report that overwork negatively impacts their relationship with their manager.
  • Health concerns: 53% of workers experience increased stress and anxiety, 41% feel burnout, and 25% skip holidays due to excessive workloads.

Expert insights

Simon Garrity, Country Manager for Protime UK, emphasizes the urgent need for businesses to address this issue. He states,

“The UK’s widespread culture of overwork is a ticking time bomb that business and HR leaders can’t afford to ignore. Excessive workloads and unrealistic expectations are burning employees out, killing motivation and productivity, and driving away top talent from organisations.”

Garrity adds,

“It’s important for employers to understand that unpaid work and missed holidays aren’t a sign of dedication, they are symptoms of a system that has to work better. By creating a culture that respects employee time, prioritizes workload management, and encourages a healthy work-life balance, businesses can reap the benefits of a happier, more productive workforce.”


The study’s overwhelming weight indicates that the overtime epidemic in the UK negatively impacts both employees and businesses. To solve this issue, managers and HR directors must take the lead in establishing fair task distribution, acceptable expectations, and support for a work-life balance. Thus, companies can boost employee motivation, retention, and output.