‘National disgrace’: 3.5m Brits working over 48hrs per week, says TUC

© Suzanne Plunkett
A growing number of Britons are working more than 48 hours per week and as a result face a greater risk of developing life-changing illnesses, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has warned.

Some 3,417,000 employees in Britain are working more than 48 hours per week, a rise of 453,000 since 2010, TUC research reveals.

Those working more than 48 hours every week are at risk of developing mental illnesses, suffering strokes and developing heart disease as a result of stress.

The majority of people working these ‘unhealthy’ hours are men (2,544,000, compared to 873,000 women) the research found, but the number of women working over 48 hours a week has risen by 18 percent since 2010.

All regions in the UK have seen a rapid growth in the number long-hour workers, but Yorkshire and the Humber has experienced the biggest rise with 30 percent more employees working more than 48 hours a week than did in 2010.

Wales and London have seen the next biggest rise, followed by the East Midlands and the North West.

According to the TUC, many people working unpaid overtime have said they want their excessive hours cut.

The biggest industries affected have been mining and quarrying (64 percent), agriculture, fishing and forestry (43 percent), accommodation and food services (36 percent), health and social work (32 percent), and education (31 percent).

The Federation of Trade Unions has called on the government to reassess its “negative view” of the EU Working Times Directive, which was brought into UK law and “stipulates a 40 hour working week.”

We need stronger rules around excessive working – not an opt-out of the Working Time Directive,” TUC General-Secretary Frances O’Grady said in a statement.

“David Cameron will not convince people to vote yes in the EU referendum if all he’s offering is ‘Burnout Britain,’” he said.

Britain’s long-hours culture is a “national disgrace,” former TUC General-Secretary John Monks told the Mail Online.

It leads to stress, ill health and family strains. Half the country is caught in a vicious circle of low pay, low productivity and long hours,” he said, blaming the crisis on low pay.

Other countries produce more, earn more and work far shorter hours. We should, and can, do the same if employers, unions and government work together.

According to the Resolution Foundation, a record five million Britons are now in low-paid jobs.

By April 2016, the government will introduce a National Living Wage for workers aged 25 and over.

Claiming this increase is not enough to ensure the policy will “work for all employers,” the Resolution Foundation said “a higher wage floor will need to go hand in hand with strong demand in the labor market and action to raise productivity.”