Published on Mar 28, 2017

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Labour of . . . ah . . . love?

How many times have you heard that old saw ‘ if you’re serious about your job you’ll get there 10 minutes early and leave 10 minutes late’?

Well, with the amount of unpaid overtime averaging at five hours per week for full-timers, it looks like that old catchphrase needs a drastic update.

And it bears repeating that this is unpaid overtime.

That’s a significant amount of time away from partners, children, friends and life-in-general that many workers are simply not being recompensed for.

The unpaid work takes the form of early starts and late departures, taking work home over the weekends or weeknights, and working through breaks.

Even part-time workers are putting in a little over 3 hours of unpaid overtime per week, according to the November 2016 report by Australia Institute.

Australia Institute, who report annually on the incidence of overwork among Australians, call this ‘donated time’ or ‘time-theft’.

Employees may work overtime due to an overflow of work they cannot fit into their standard work hours.

Overtime may go unrecognised and unpaid by the employer, or employees may be expected to work the overtime without pay.

The loss to the worker is significant, according to Australia Institute, with affected full-timers losing approximately 13% of their income in unpaid overtime, while part-timers lose even more at 25%.

That’s a substantial amount of wages staying in the employer’s pocket.

In fact, Australia Institute say their data suggests that the total value of unpaid overtime could be around $116 billion per year.

At the other end of the scale, the number of part-time, casual or temporary workers wanting to work more hours is growing. A third of part-time workers surveyed and half of casual workers surveyed all said they would prefer more (paid) hours per week.

The Institute say the solution seems fairly evident: the number of underemployed could be reduced if work was allocated more realistically. Full-timers would work less unpaid overtime, part-timers would work more paid hours per week.

When overtime applies:

Overtime is when an employee works extra time. It can include work done:

  • beyond their ordinary hours of work
  • outside the agreed number of hours
  • outside the spread of ordinary hours.

The spread of hours is the times of the day ordinary hours can be worked (eg. between 7am – 7pm).

When overtime rates apply

An award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement will set out when overtime rates apply.

Go to Fair Work Overtime for more information.

Read the full Australia Institute report here.