Issue date
09 Sep 2015

~~The number of people working excessive hours has risen by 15 per cent since 2010, according to a new TUC analysis published today (Wednesday).

The number of employees working more than 48 hours per week has now reached 3,417,000 – up by 453,000 since 2010 – following more than a decade of decline in long hours working.

Regularly working more than 48 hours per week is linked to a significantly increased risk of developing heart disease, stress, mental illness, strokes and diabetes. Illnesses caused by excessive working time put extra strain on the health service and the benefits system, as well as impacting on co-workers, friends and relatives. Many people are working unpaid overtime and at least a million report that they want to cut their excessive hours.

All areas of the UK have seen an increase in the number of long-hours workers. Yorkshire and the Humber has seen by far the biggest increase with 30 per cent (279,000) more employees working over 48 hours a week in 2015 than they were in 2010.

Workers in Wales (22 per cent increase) and London (21 per cent increase) have seen the next biggest increases in long hours working, followed by the East Midlands (18 per cent increase) and the North West (17 per cent increase).

Those working long hours are still disproportionately men (2,544,000 men compared to 873,000 women in 2015) but the number of women working 48 hour plus weeks has increased by 18 per cent since 2010, compared to a 15 per cent increase in the number of men.

The growth in long hours has impacted differently on various industries. The biggest increases have been in mining and quarrying (64 per cent), agriculture, fishing and forestry (43 per cent), accommodation and food services (36 per cent), health and social work (32 per cent) and education (31 per cent).

The TUC says that the government should reassess its negative view of the EU Working Time Directive, which has been brought into UK law and stipulates a 48 hour working week. Many long hours employees report that they feel pressured to ‘opt-out’ from the 48 hour limit as a condition of employment (individual opt-outs are currently allowed by law). The ‘opt-out’ should be phased out over a few years.

Despite a growing workforce, the existing working time rules have helped to reduce long hours from 3.9 million (17 per cent) in Spring 1998 to 3.3 million (13 per cent) in 2007 and 3.0 million (12 per cent) in 2010. But the number has since increased and is back to 3.4 million (13 per cent). There is now a strong sense that the existing rules are too weak to beat the long-hours culture, leaving too many people stuck in ‘Burnout Britain’.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Britain’s long hours culture is hitting productivity and putting workers’ health at risk. Working more than 48 hours a week massively increases the risk of strokes, heart disease and diabetes.

“We need stronger rules around excessive working, not an opt-out of the Working Time Directive. David Cameron will not convince people to vote yes in the EU referendum if all he’s offering is ‘Burnout Britain’.”


UK nations and regions breakdown of number of employees working long-hours (in thousands)

 2010 2015 Change
National 2,964 3,418 15%
North East  102  112  10%
North West  279  326  17%
Yorkshire and the Humber 214  279  30%
East Midlands  229  270  18%
West Midlands  226  249  10%
East of England  301  343  14%
London  481 582 21%
South East  492 545 11%
South West  243  275  13%
Wales  107  131  22%
Scotland  230  244  6%
Northern Ireland  58  63  -
Total  2,964  3,418  15%

Source: LFS summer quarters (Industries by ONS classification. Changes smaller than 10,000 are not statistically significant).

Gender breakdown of number of employees working long-hours (in thousands)

 2010 2015 Change
Men  2,228  2,544  14%
Women 737  873  18%
Total 2,964  3,418  15%

Source: LFS Summer quarters

Industries breakdown of number of employees working long-hours (in thousands)

 2010 2015 Change
Agriculture, forestry and fishing  40  57  43%
Mining and quarrying  33  54  64%
Manufacturing  378  411  9%
Electricity, gas, air con supply  18  23  -
Water supply, sewerage, waste  30  29  -
Construction  237  279  18%
Wholesale, retail, repair of vehicles  317  318  0%
Transport and storage  225  259  15%
Accommodation and food services  123  167  36%
Information and communication  129  158  22%
Financial and insurance activities  176  170  -3%
Real estate activities  30  28  -
Prof, scientific, technical activities  211  244  16%
Admin and support services  135  159  18%
Public admin and defence  166  166  0%
Education  376  492  31%
Health and social work  220  291  32%
Arts, entertainment and recreation  47  47  -
Other service activities  53  52  -
Total  2,964  3,418  15%

Source: LFS summer quarters (Industries by ONS classification. Changes smaller than 10,000 are not statistically significant).

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