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Managers do £5,500 worth of unpaid overtime each year says TUC

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Most people enjoy their jobs, but stress and pressure of work make the case for new legal protection argues a TUC dossier Work smarter – an end to burnout Britain, published to coincide with the key note speech to the TUC Congress in Glasgow by its General Secretary, John Monks.

The dossier includes a new poll on pressure in the modern workplace, and rebuts the employer campaign against red tape with a new analysis of government statistics and employer claims that shows the cost of employment protection measures is modest and is dwarfed by the value to employers of unpaid overtime.

Key findings include:

· Official figures show that workers in Britain do more than £23 billion worth of unpaid overtime every year. Managers who do unpaid overtime do more than £5,500 worth each year, professionals’ overtime is worth £7,054 and even those in low paid jobs clock up at least £1,000 a year.

· The TUC poll suggests official figures may underestimate unpaid overtime. Four million regularly work more than five hours extra unpaid a week. Half of these work regularly on their days off.

· The costs of employment protection measures are always put across the whole economy by employer organisations. The figures are always in millions of pounds. Yet per worker they are extremely modest. The costs of implementing new rights for part timers work out at 5p per part timer per week. The costs of improved maternity provision work out at 5p per woman of child bearing age per week. Unpaid parental leave is 2p per worker per week.

· Stress and pressure at work are real problems. 85% of full time workers in the TUC poll say they enjoy their work but more than half say they find it hard to cope with the pressure of work.

· More 12 million people say that stress at work has made them irritable and bad tempered at home. Perhaps not surprisingly therefore, 4 million employees have had relationships seriously affected by stress at work.

· A new survey by the TUC of 8,000 union safety reps to be published later this year will show stress as the biggest health and safety problem.

· One cause of stress and long hours is bad management. The TUC poll suggests that more than six million workers have bosses that don’t know how to get the best out of them. More than five and a half million have bosses who are so overworked they do not really have the time to manage the work of their staff properly. Nearly six million have bosses who it is not easy to tell there is a better way to do something and get their work changed as a result.

The TUC dossier adds up to a powerful case for better protection at work and action on the stress and long hours culture. Other countries in Europe have higher living standards and more productive workplaces but because employees work smarter they do not need a long hours culture.

“The European model is in many ways the real Third Way. It rejects both the dislocation and inequalities that go with the US model – where workers work even longer hours than in Britain and enjoy fewer holidays – and the Eastern European model that has now collapsed”, the report says.

TUC General Secretary John Monks said, “The challenge now is to tackle the long hours culture and the dangers of burn out Britain through sensible regulation, better management and partnership at work. The government should be robust in the face of employer opposition to modest improvements in working conditions. They should promote the benefits of necessary regulation, and point out the dangers – and costs - of a lack of regulation.

“Just look at what happened when government failed to stop farmers feeding ground-up diseased sheep to cows. Sensible regulation would have stopped BSE. That would not have been red tape but a life saver.”

The TUC says the government should end the individual opt-out from the 48 hour limit on the average working week, introduce paid parental leave and a right for new mothers to return to work part time. And above all they should promote partnership at work so that employees can have more say in how their work is organised. The best way to do this is to sign up to European proposals to extend information and consultation at work.

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