Workers must ‘draw a line in the sand and go home on time’: Expert

We talk to one economist about how the average full-time Australian worker does 5.1 hours in unpaid overtime each week

Workers must ‘draw a line in the sand and go home on time’: Expert
A national ‘Go Home On Time Day’ is necessary to urge all employees to focus on a healthier work-life balance, according to The Australia Institute.

The institute recently released new findings which showed the average full-time Australian worker does 5.1 hours in unpaid overtime each week (the equivalent of 264 hours per year).

The study of 891 worker also showed:
  • Almost one-third (32%) don’t have access to paid holiday leave.
  • Over half of those with annual leave didn’t take their whole entitlement.
  • That result would equate, across the whole labour market, to 48 million unused holiday days, worth $11.1 billion - annually.
Jim Stanford, economist and director of the institute's Centre for Future Work, said the aspect of the research that surprised him most was how prevalent unpaid overtime is.

“It isn’t just senior executives and top managers burning the midnight oil as part of their very well paid jobs,” he told HC.

“Our survey showed that there is rampant use of unpaid overtime across all occupations and all industries.”

Stanford said it was particular surprising that part-time and casual workers would be working extra time for free.

“It seems especially unfair yet part-time and casual workers are reporting three to four hours of unpaid overtime a week,” he said.

“I think it’s probably because they are the ones who are most desperate to impress the boss in the hope of a permanent position.”

Stanford added that the national ‘Go Home On Time Day’ is all about encouraging all Australians to try and ascribe some real value to their leisure time.

“Leisure time is not free. The older you get, the more you realise that there is nothing more precious than time.

“Yet we live in a culture where work drips over to the rest of our lives without recognition of that cost.

“The national ‘Go Home On Time Day’ is a call to action to draw a line in the sand and go home on time.”

He added that it’s also an effort to start a conversation in workplaces about what is fair and reasonable and what isn’t.

Moreover, Stanford said he was surprised to see that about a third of Australian workers don’t get any leave entitlement, which reflects the growth of casual workers, independent contractors and people who are self-employed.

“Then, of course, those who get annual leave each year aren’t necessarily using it all,” he said.

“A lot of people talked about being too busy and worried that their boss would think less of them for taking leave.”

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