"We have increased leisure time"

 

• Working hours have risen in the last 20 years, on average, for UK full-time workers (as shown by the UK Labour Force Survey). This reverses a 150-year trend of declining working hours.

• UK governments have known for decades that long hours are economically counterproductive. A 1916 Home Office report, Industrial Fatigue, noted that output "is lowered by the working of overtime. The diminution is often so great that the total daily output is less when overtime is worked than when it is suspended. Thus overtime defeats its own object."

• The UK government has admitted a "sharp increase" in excessive working hours. DTI research found that 1 in 6 employees now work more than 60 hours a week.
Full-time employees in the UK work the longest hours in Europe. The average for full-timers in the UK is 43.5 hours per week. In France it's 38.2 and in Germany 39.9, yet both are more productive than the UK.

• According to an ICM poll, 1 in 5 UK workers never take a lunch-break. And 57% of workers take a break of less than 30 minutes (30 minutes is the legal minimum).

• A May 2003 British Medical Association survey found that 77% of consultants work more than 50 hours a week for the NHS, and 46% more than 60 hours.

• Each year employees are giving £23 billion in free labour to their bosses, according to the TUC. The union organisation has designated February 27th as "Work Your Proper Hours Day", after calculating that this is the day when the average worker who does unpaid overtime stops working for free.

Sources: UK Labour Force Survey, Historical Supplement and Quarterly Supplement, Autumn 1999; Hazards magazine factsheet 78, 2002; Guardian, 30 Aug 2002; TUC online, tuc.org.uk; ICM poll quoted by jobserve.com; Hazards magazine factsheet 83, 2003; Press Association, Feb 26 2004.