The number of people working longer than 48 hours each week has increased by 15% since 2010, according to new research.
Trade Union Congress (TUC) analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics found that the number of people working excessively long hours has now reached 3,417,000 – up by 453,000 since 2010.
Employees who work more than 48 hours a week run the risk of developing serious health issues including heart disease, stress, mental illness, strokes and diabetes. This, warns the TUC, could lead to extra strain on the NHS and benefits system, as well as impacting on family members and co-workers.
According to the TUC, many workers are asked by employers to work unpaid overtime, at a time when at least a million have expressed a desire to cut their working hours.
All areas of the UK have seen an increase in the number of hours worked, with Yorkshire and the Humber seeing the biggest increase of 30%. 279,000 more people in these regions are working longer than 48 hours a week in 2015 than in 2010.
The number of workers in Wales (22%), London (21%), East Midlands (18%) and the North West (15%) working excessively long hours has also increased substantially (see percentages).
The biggest increases have been in mining and quarrying (64%), agriculture, fishing and forestry (43%), accommodation and food services (36%), health and social work (32%) and education (31%)
Analysis shows that the number of men working long hours easily outstrips that of women – 2,544,000 men compared to 873,000 women – but the gap is narrowing.
According to TUC’s research, the number of women working longer than 48 hours has increased 18% since 2010, compared to a 15% rise among their male counterparts.
The TUC is urging the Government to reconsider its position of allowing individual workers to opt-out of the ‘EU Working Time Directive’, which stipulates a working week of no longer than 48 hours. Many workers claim they are pressurised to opt-out of the directive as a ‘condition of employment’.
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’.”