Australians losing over $21,000 annually due to unpaid overtime

Why are workers not being paid appropriately?

Australians losing over $21,000 annually due to unpaid overtime

Employees across Australia are losing more than $21,000 a year in wages for carrying out almost three months of unpaid overtime work annually, according to a new report.

A survey among over 5,000 union and non-union workers by Unions NSW revealed that 86% are doing unpaid overtime.

According to the report, employees are doing 11.6 weeks of unpaid work annually, resulting to a $21,563 loss for a worker with a yearly income of $96,660.

"The huge extent and severity of unpaid overtime reveals how employers have become accustomed to expect it from their staff," said Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey in a statement.

"More often than not, workers are required to work through lunch breaks, turn up early and finish late, and put in extra hours on the weekend."

Refusing overtime work

The high levels of unpaid work come amid fears by the workforce that refusing to carry out overtime work would be career limiting.

"Fears of reprisal, missing out on promotion, and threats from employers to give staff a worse roster all prevent workers from leaving on time," Morey said.

As a result, employees are not just financially held back, but also impacted physically and mentally.

Nearly eight in 10 respondents said their physical health and sleep (76%), as well as their mental health (79%) are negatively impacted by overtime hours.

Furthermore, 80% of employees reported they have difficulties disconnecting from work after hours due to overworking.

"This was beyond merely disconnecting physically or digitally but included workers struggling to disengage their thoughts from work," the report read.

Addressing unpaid overtime work

Morey said their findings indicate that the Fair Work Act's limitation on overtime is "completely failing and needs to be urgently updated."

Among the recommendations made by the union is the introduction of a "legislative protection for employees to refuse to perform unpaid overtime."

According to the report, the Fair Work Act allows employers to require workers to "perform 'reasonable additional hours' for no extra pay and does not define what is considered to be 'reasonable. '"

"No ordinary worker should be working for free," the report read. "This study demonstrates that without limits, unpaid overtime can quickly reach excessive amounts."

The other recommendations from the union include:

  • Mandating all employers to record the amount of unpaid overtime their employees perform
  • Mandating employers of employees who earn less than the High-Income Threshold to annually report the amount of overtime, paid and unpaid, that their staff performed
  • Providing all employees with a hundred hours of paid leave a year for volunteer work for a not-for-profit, community, or social justice organisation.
  • Amending the National Employment Standards to include five weeks of annual leave for all workers

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