The Office for National Statistics has reported a drop in the number of hours worked by those in Britain.

Britain has one of the lowest work hours per week of the European Union where the average is 36.3 hours.


The reason behind the drop in working hours over the last two decades is partly explained by the change in the numbers of the people working in certain sectors. For example, there has been an increase in numbers of people working within the services sector which traditionally has shorter working hours than other sectors such as manufacturing. In addition there has been a sharp increase in the amount of people taking on part-time rather than full-time employment. If we were to remove the people who work part-time from the figures then Britain would actually have one of the longest working weeks in Europe of 42.7 hours, with only Greece and Austria working longer. Britain has more part-time workers than most other European countries.

These figures are perhaps surprising for a country which has in the past been described as having over-worked, over-stressed workers in need of a Spanish style siesta. Perhaps unsurprising to those who work in full-time management roles and senior positions however, is that the figures also showed that many managers work an additional 7.6 hours a week unpaid.

In recognition of the time spent working without pay the head of the TUC Brendan Barber asked that employers be more aware of these hours and take them into consideration. This is particularly relevant when one considers the fact that these unpaid hours are worth some £29 billion to the UK economy each year.

The drop is not just the result of changing work patterns but of course of the current economic climate also. In reality those in Britain often do work very long hours but this is not always reflected in the levels of productivity. In relation to this Brendan Barber suggested that we look at work patterns and aim to put an end to “pointless presenteeism”, that is where people turn up to work when they should have stayed at home due to illness. This way we can hope for a better work-life balance as well as improved productivity for those at work.

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