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Today is ‘Work Your Proper Hours Day’ – when workers are encouraged to take their lunch break and finish on time
  • Unpaid overtime is more common in the public sector, with teachers doing more than any other job 

  • Ministers must set an example by reducing unpaid overtime in the public sector, says TUC  

UK employers claimed £26 billion of free labour last year because of workers doing unpaid overtime, according to new analysis published today (Friday) by the TUC.   

Today is the TUC’s 20th annual Work Your Proper Hours Day. On this day, workers are encouraged to take the breaks they are entitled to and finish their shifts on time. And managers are encouraged to support staff by setting reasonable workloads and putting in place workplace policies to protect against burnout.  

Main findings  

  • Unpaid overtime is a problem for millions of workers: 3.8 million people did unpaid overtime in 2023, putting in an average of 7.2 unpaid hours a week. For those workers, that’s equivalent on average to £7,200 a year of wages going unpaid for work done. 

  • Occupations with most unpaid overtime in 2023: This year teachers top the list for both the proportion of staff doing unpaid overtime (40%) and the average weekly overtime across all employees (4.4 hours). Chief executives, managers and directors feature strongly, suggesting that the additional responsibilities of senior staff are not properly managed by employers. (See table 3 in notes)  

  • Unpaid overtime is more common in the public sector: 1 in 6 public sector workers (16.7%) did unpaid overtime in 2023, compared to 1 in 9 (11.9%) in the private sector. Public sector staff gave £11 billion worth of unpaid overtime to meet the needs of service users. That is an average of more than 10 million hours each week of unpaid overtime in our public services.  

  • Regional variation: In 2023, London had the highest proportion of workers doing unpaid overtime, at 18.8%, compared to 13.2% nationally. (See table 2 in notes) 

Rules for employer recording of working hours need to be strengthened 

In a 2019 the European Court of Justice ruled that employers should establish an “objective, reliable and accessible system” for recording hours.  

This ruling was binding on the UK. But when the Conservative government had the opportunity to strengthen requirements on employers with the Retained EU Law Act, ministers retained the UK’s far weaker UK rules. 

Employers are only required to keep “adequate” records of hours worked. 

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:  

“We’re encouraging every worker to take their lunchbreak and finish on time today. And we know that the best employers will support them doing that. 

“Most workers don’t mind putting in extra hours from time to time, but they should be paid for it.   

“Part of the problem is that some employers fail to record the overtime staff do. And when they don’t record it, they don’t pay it. 

“Conservative ministers know about this problem, but they refuse to tighten the rules on employers’ records. That’s not good enough. Working people deserve a government that is on their side.” 

On public sector overtime, Paul added: 

“We all depend on public services. But they’ve been run down by Conservative cuts and mismanagement.  

“That’s why public sector workers do so much unpaid overtime. They are going flat out to provide the services families rely on. But burnout and staff retention are big problems. 

“None of us can afford to go on like this. The government must fix pay and conditions for public sector staff, instead of relying on the goodwill of workers who are burning out. That’s the only way we can rebuild our public services to the decent standard that we all need.” 

Editors note

Table 1 – headline data from analysis 



Number of employees working unpaid overtime  


% of employees working unpaid overtime  


Total weekly hours of unpaid overtime  


Annual total of unpaid overtime (hours)  


Weekly average unpaid hours for workers who do unpaid overtime  


Total annual value of unpaid overtime  


Average annual loss for a worker doing unpaid overtime  


Table 2 – unpaid overtime by region 


Average weekly unpaid overtime hours, of those who do them 

% of employees doing unpaid overtime 

Annual total loss 

Average annual loss for those working unpaid overtime 

North East 





North West 





Yorkshire and Humberside 





East Midlands 





West Midlands 





East of England 










South East 





South West 










Table 3 – top 10 occupations for unpaid overtime 


(ONS categories) 

Average hours unpaid overtime per week across:  

Proportion doing unpaid overtime  

Total weekly unpaid overtime hours for occupation  

Average annual loss for those working unpaid overtime 

All employees  

Employees doing unpaid overtime  

Teaching Professionals 






Chief Executives and Senior Officials 






Directors in Logistics, Warehousing and Transport 






Other Educational Professionals 






Health and Social Services Managers and Directors* 






Functional Managers and Directors 






Conservation and Environment Professionals 






Production Managers and Directors 






Managers and Proprietors in Health and Care Services* 






Legal Professionals 






* While these two occupations have similar sounding names, the composition is different. The ONS explanations of the compositions of these groups are: 

Health and social services managers and directors 

Occupations in this minor group are classified into the following unit groups: 
1171 Health services and public health managers and directors 
1172 Social services managers and directors 

Managers and directors in health and social services plan, organise, direct and co-ordinate the activities and resources necessary for the efficient provision of primary and secondary health care services, social and other welfare services. 

Managers and proprietors in health and care services 

Occupations in this minor group are classified into the following unit groups: 
1231 Health care practice managers 
1232 Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors 
1233 Early education and childcare services proprietors 

Job holders in this minor group manage and coordinate the work and resources of health care practices, residential and day care establishments and domiciliary care services. 

- Gender: Women and men are equally likely to work unpaid overtime, with 13.2% of workers of each gender likely to. However, women who work unpaid overtime do 0.3 hours a week fewer than men (7.0 hours for women, and 7.3 hours for men).  

- BME workers: BME workers are less likely to work unpaid overtime than white workers (9.3% of BME workers, and 13.9% of white workers). BME workers who work unpaid overtime do slightly more than white workers (7.6 hours for BME workers, and 7.1 hours for white workers).  

- Methodology for the analysis: This TUC analysis is based on the Labour Force Survey (LFS) 2023Q2. This is the latest available dataset at the time of publication. We usually use Q3 datasets for this analysis so have not made comparisons to previous years. This year the ONS has paused publication of the LFS and is currently reweighting its data. That means this analysis may be subject to some minor revisions. 

- Comparisons with previous years: The Labour Force Survey reweighting work being undertaken by ONS has prevented us from making comparisons with previous years. We hope to resume timeline comparisons in the future. 

- Choice of date for Work Your Proper hours Day (WYPHD): From 2004-2020 the date of Work Your Proper Hours Day was based on a calculation: we identified the day in the year when the average worker doing unpaid overtime effectively stops working for free – and WYPHD falls on the closest Friday.  

For the last few years before the pandemic, it always fell on the last Friday in February. But the impacts of the pandemic on working patterns led to greater variation in the date, with it sometimes falling in early March. Based on the data in this release it would fall on 2 March. 

However, the TUC decided not to move the date into March, as there is now widespread expectation that WYPHD occurs on the final Friday of February.  

- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 


TUC press office   
020 7467 1248  

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