Unison official: Social workers among worst hit by unpaid overtime

Social workers and home care staff could be among the occupational groups worst affected by unpaid overtime, a Unison official has warned.

The union’s head of social services, Helga Pile, made the claim, as the Trades Union Congress released figures today which estimated record numbers of staff – 5.24m – worked unpaid overtime last year, worth a combined value of £26.9bn.

Pile said that unpaid overtime was a “regular feature of the job” for social workers due to the irregular hours and emotional nature of work, adding “you can’t just walk away when you have made a commitment to someone”.

Harder to police social care

She added it was harder to police overtime in social care because of the “fluid nature” of the work, and also warned that there could be more job cuts in the sector in coming months.  

The TUC’s figures were calculated using unpublished data from National Statistics’ annual survey of hours and earnings and labour force survey (LFS) for the April-June 2008 period – just before the credit crunch kicked in.

A TUC report analysing LFS data for the July-September period is expected in before the end of February, and the TUC will then compare levels of unpaid overtime by occupation.  Pile said the recession was “bound to have an effect”.


TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said he was “disappointed” that the numbers doing unpaid overtime had gone up for the second successive year after falls in previous years.

Of the long-hours work culture that he said dogged British workplaces, Barber added: “Long hours are bad for people’s health, and employers should never forget that each extra hour worked makes people less productive once they are over a sensible working week.”

The average amount of unpaid overtime per employee remained the same as in 2007 at seven hours and six minutes a week.

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