Covid-19 has increased unpaid overtime despite people working from home – with Aussies now working an average of eight weeks a year for free.
Australians are working on average of 6.1 hours of unpaid work every week – adding up to eight weeks of free labour every year.
A report released today from the Australia Institute to mark Go Home on Time Day reveals the number of unpaid hours being worked by Aussies increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, Australians were working an average of 4.62 hours of unpaid labour, this rose to 5.3 hours in 2020 and was higher again this year, at 6.1 hours.
This means that over the past two years of the pandemic, there’s been a one-third increase to the average amount of unpaid overtime.
This is now costing the average worker $230 a week or $460 a fortnight.
“Covid-19 has made the situation worse, indicating work-from-home does not necessarily improve work life in favour of employees,” Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work economist Dan Nahum said.
Mr Nahum said there were many ways employees were racking up unpaid overtime including through arriving at work early, staying late, working through breaks, working nights and weekends, as well as taking calls or emails out of hours.
“Time-theft is rife and bosses are stealing record amounts of unpaid time from workers,” he said.
Mr Nanhum said Australian workers were now taking home a smaller share of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) than ever before.
Across the economy, employees rack up about $125 billion dollars worth of lost income per year, which suppresses consumer spending and makes households feel less financially secure.
“If Australians want to stop this alarming theft of billions of hours of time, and hundreds of billions of dollars of income, policymakers need to strengthen workers’ power to demand reasonable, stable hours of limit, and fair payment for every hour they work,” Mr Nahum said.
“This is all the more important with so many Australians working from their own homes.”
Working from home has also seen a rise in surveillance with about 39 per cent of employees surveyed saying their bosses monitor their activity, this includes via webcam or having their keystrokes recorded.
Another 17 per cent said they were unsure whether this was happening.
The workers doing the most unpaid overtime
The report Working From Home, or Living at Work? reveals the results of Australia Institute’s annual survey, conducted between 24 and 27 August, of 1604 Aussies. Among other questions, it asked respondents how many unpaid hours they worked in the past seven days.
It found those working the most unpaid overtime on average were technicians and trades workers (11.5 hours per week) followed by managers (7.8 hours) and professionals (7.4 hours).
Full-time workers reported the most unpaid overtime of around 6.91 hours per week, with men working longer hours (6.86) compared to women (5.36).
The country’s youngest workers were also most severely impacted with those aged between 18 and 29 years old working an average of 8.17 hours of unpaid overtime.
These workers were also most likely to want more hours of paid work, who felt they couldn’t say ‘no’ to their boss and worked in highly casualised industries such as hospitality and retail.
Mr Nahum said it was an injustice that many Australians wanted more paid hours at the same time as contributing free labour to their boss.
The problem even impacts those working in part-time and casual positions, with about half of these saying they wanted more paid hours.
Despite this, those working part-time were giving away more than 4.5 hours a week, and casuals were working more than 5 hours for free.
“These are worker efforts that should end up as wages in someone’s pocket, not a boost to a profit column,” Mr Nahum said.