BRITISH workers were robbed of a staggering £24 billion in unpaid overtime last year, a TUC analysis revealed yesterday.
And the huge sum includes £7bn owed to key workers, such as nurses who are playing vital roles during the pandemic.
The underpayment affected three million people, the TUC says in its report, each working an average of 7.7 unpaid hours a week and equivalent to £7,300 for each worker.
Teachers were particularly badly affected, having to teach key workers’ children in school while providing home learning for others, the study said.
Identifying regional variations, the TUC said that London has the highest proportion of workers doing unpaid overtime, with nearly one in six workers affected compared to about one in eight nationally.
In other regions the percentages of workers affected were: North East 9 per cent, North West 10.5, Yorkshire and Humber 10.4, East Midlands 11.5, West Midlands 13, East of England 12.8, South East 13.6, South West 12.9, Wales 8.4 and Scotland 9.5.
The report has been released to mark Work Your Proper Hours Day alongside a call from the TUC for the government cancel its current pay freeze — affecting 2.7m public-sector workers — when the Budget is announced next week.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Over the last year, many workers have worked huge amounts of unpaid overtime to keep the country going and keep businesses and public services afloat.
“We should thank the key workers who put in extra hours without any extra pay.
"At the Budget, the chancellor should cancel the pay freeze and give every key worker a decent pay rise. It is what they have earned.
“The impact of working from home has been to increase unpaid hours worked.
“As Britain begins to slowly exit from the pandemic, employers must support workers to balance work with their home lives, leisure and families.
“Ministers should help by bringing in new rights to flexible working for everyone. And everyone should make sure that they end their shift and log off on time on Work Your Proper Hours Day.”
The TUC is also calling for an increase in the statutory minimum wage to £10 an hour, for 220,000 job vacancies in the NHS and social care to be filled — and the introduction of a long-promised employment Bill to strengthen protection of workers from overwork and burnout.
Unite union assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This is further evidence from the TUC, if more was needed, of the vital role that key public-sector workers have played to keep society functioning smoothly during the last year.
“It is the exhausted NHS nurse who has done the additional shift to help save Covid-19 patients, as well as other key workers who have gone the extra mile, such as the teaching support staff assisting the education of key workers’ children and the refuse collectors who have emptied the bins in all weathers, despite the risk of catching coronavirus.
“Throughout the pandemic, it is the public sector that has more than proved its worth as the standard bearer for delivering services in a timely fashion — the vaccination rollout programme being a shining example.
“In recognition of these heroic efforts, the government needs to jettison the pay freeze for 2.7m public-sector workers in the budget and also give a cast-iron commitment that it will honour the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body when it reports in May.”