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One in three UK employees risks burnout due to unpaid overtime

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67% of workers admit money worries negatively impact their work performance

Employee wellbeing remains high on the agenda of TA and HR teams and needs to remain there as new research reveals 34% of UK employees are putting their mental health at risk by doing some form of unpaid overtime and working beyond their contracted hours each week. 

In the UK, 22% of workers do between one and five hours of unpaid overtime a week – despite 71% of businesses claiming to support employee wellbeing. The poll of 1,000 UK-based employees by Claro Wellbeing was published in its Wellbeing Washing – The True Cost report, which highlights the disparity between organisations’ public displays of support for mental health initiatives and actual support for mental wellbeing.

Almost 20 million people –  6% of those currently in employment –  said they work more than 10 hours unpaid overtime in addition to their contracted hours per week. Previous Claro Wellbeing research revealed 22% of employees have experienced burnout – a state of physical and emotional exhaustion caused by work stress – in the last six months.  67% cite money worries as negatively impacting their work performance. This means around 22 million employees are facing financial-related stresses – exacerbated by continuing high levels of inflation.

Employees in the HR and recruitment and agriculture industries are most likely to work unpaid overtime, with 50% of employees surveyed in each of these sectors doing up to five hours of unpaid work a week. Closely followed by those in marketing, advertising, and sales (45%) and leisure, sport, and tourism (41%). 16% of employees in the business, consultancy, and management industry work more than 10 hours of overtime in a week, as do 11% of those in the social care sector and the creative industries, highlighting that unpaid extra hours are widespread across sectors.

Whilst reasons for working beyond contracted hours differ, 34% of 18–25-year-olds say they work overtime to support their future career development. Young people are most likely to work unpaid overtime, with a quarter of 18–25-year-olds surveyed working more than five hours of unpaid overtime a week. 24% of employees say that they are expected to work beyond their contracted hours.

Stacey Lowman, Head of Employee Wellbeing at Claro Wellbeing said: “The number of employees working unpaid overtime each week is concerning and suggests a need for a shift in working culture for many businesses. While businesses are facing tough trading conditions, this pressure cannot simply be passed to their employees without consideration for their wellbeing. Continued overworking is likely to lead to poor wellbeing, burnout, and an increased chance of mental health issues. Employers are likely to see a higher staff turnover rate as employees leave for a better working environment. To maintain employee wellbeing, employers must foster a healthy working environment which encourages employees to take breaks, work their contracted hours and maintain a work-life balance.”

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