How does your employer manage excess workloads among social workers?

Following readers' reaction to a social work manager working over their contracted hours, we asked practitioners what their employers were doing to manage excess workloads

Photo by Community Care

When a safeguarding team manager recently detailed a day in their life for Community Care, readers took special notice of them working over their contracted hours.

On the day in question, the manager started work at 8.30am and clocking off at 6pm, but did not turn their work phone  off until 7.10pm.

In response, social workers took to the comments section condemning the need to work excessive hours “with little reward” to attempt to manage their workloads.

“[This is a] total of 10 hours and 10 minutes worked for the day. Over a five-day working week, such hours would equate to 50 hours and 50 minutes worked,” said David.

“Assuming [this is] a 37 hours working week, this would mean working […] more than an extra full day, for which there will be no extra payment. No wonder social workers are leaving in droves [and] that local authorities have difficulty recruiting and retaining [them].”

“Too many tasks and not enough time to address these unless you work excessive hours,” said another practitioner. “[This] is on a goodwill basis that is not appreciated.”

Workloads seen as ‘part of social work’


The reaction in the comments raised questions about employers’ attitudes towards excess workloads among social workers.

A Community Care poll that amassed 584 votes found that over half of practitioners (55%) reported that their employers saw excess workloads as “part of social work”.

Only 16% said their employers were “doing their best to reduce workloads within resources”, while over a quarter (28%) said their employers were “sympathetic” but weren’t doing enough to change things.

‘The system works through goodwill’

Readers commented that the system relied on the “goodwill of social workers”, who they said were under pressure from a blame culture.

“Over the years research from a range of organisations (including trade unions and academic institutions) has demonstrated that social workers are overworked and have to work excessive hours without pay,” continued David.

“This is absolutely unjust and, to be frank, dangerous for the vulnerable individuals to whom we have a duty of care. If you are physically and emotionally exhausted due to overwork you are not going to be as alert as you need to be.”

Celebrate your colleagues

In our new series, My Brilliant Colleague, we’re asking you to celebrate each other. Write to us about a colleague’s excellent practice or support they’ve given you in a time of crisis.

You or your colleague have the option to be anonymous and the entries can feature anyone you work with, including team managers, practice educators and students. Check out the latest entry and find more information by reading our nominations form.

According to Sandra, the current system has “worked because of the goodwill and passion of social workers”.

However, she added that, instead of being recognised, practitioners were blamed for system failures under the guise of “a lack of organisational skills”.

Weekend working ‘becoming a norm’

“Now working weekends is becoming increasingly more of a norm to get the work done,” added Veronica.

“There is also the name and shame culture if all visits [and other core group tasks] are not completed in time.”

One practitioner, Helen, said she often had no time to fit a lunch break into her busy schedule, calling the day detailed in the manager’s article a “good day” scenario.

“I often continue a Teams call while trying to make a sandwich and eat it off-camera if I’m lucky. If not, I grab biscuits. The laptop is always on until about 11pm – with a break of one hour or two to cook tea [in between]. I start at 7:30-8am [but have] no time in the day to write up [case notes], that’s why my computer [is on] all evening…”

Do you manage to complete all your tasks within your contracted working hours? Join the discussion on our community site, the Social Work Community.

Share your story

Would you like to write about a day in your life as a social worker? Do you have any stories, reflections or experiences from working in social work that you’d like to share or write about?

If so, email our community journalist, Anastasia Koutsounia, at

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3 Responses to How does your employer manage excess workloads among social workers?

  1. David March 4, 2024 at 4:55 pm #

    Until Social Workers unite and say no to such oppressive management practices then things will not change and to the detriment of those vulnerable children and adults that SWs have a duty of care towards

    • VH March 5, 2024 at 10:40 am #

      I really wish more social workers understood this David.

  2. David March 5, 2024 at 5:32 pm #

    Dear VH

    I would like to think/hope that this realisation will come in time. We have a generation brought up without an appreciation of trade unionism, a consequence of Thatcherism and ongoing limitations imposed by governments on trade unions