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Aussies unwittingly handing bosses $461.60 a fortnight

·Finance reporter
·3-min read
Woman sits at kitchen table in front of her laptop, looking stressed. (Source: Getty)
Australians are increasingly working unpaid hours from home. (Source: Getty)

If you feel like you’re working more for your boss than they’re actually paying you, you’re not imagining it. And you’re not alone. 

A new report reveals Australian employees are working on average 6.13 hours of unpaid work each week in 2021, which is up on the past two years (5.25 hours in 2020, and 4.62 hours in 2019).

This year alone, that combines to a whopping eight full weeks of free work. Young workers aged between 18 and 29 performed the most unpaid overtime, with an average 8.17 hours per week.

According to the Go Home on Time Day report, released on Wednesday by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, said this unpaid overtime represented a loss of $125 billion in income for Australian workers this year, or $461.60 per worker every fortnight.

Health workers wearing PPE walk between cars administering COVID-19 tests. (Source: Getty)
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused dramatic changes in work culture across the country. (Source: Getty)

"This year, Australian workers are taking home a smaller share of GDP than we have ever seen before, yet, time theft is rife and bosses are stealing record amounts of unpaid time from workers," Dan Nahum, economist at the Centre for Future Work, said.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

He added that the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced millions of Australians to work from home, had “accelerated Australia's time-theft crisis,” with 26 per cent of workers reporting that their bosses had expected them to be available more often during the pandemic.

"Arriving at work early, staying late, working through breaks, working nights and weekends, taking calls or emails out of hours – there are a host of ways employers steal time from their employees, and we see them all being used prodigiously,” he said.

"COVID-19 has made the situation worse, indicating work from home does not necessarily improve work life in favour of employees. Instead we're seeing further incursion of work into people’s personal time and their privacy. In many cases it's making it easier for employers to undercut Australian minimum standards around hours, overtime, and penalty rates.”

Bosses spying on their workers

Another revelation from the report is the extent to which some employers are using technology such as webcams and keystroke counters to monitor their employees.

"Alarmingly, work-from-home arrangements have been accompanied by innovative surveillance methods, with 39 per cent of employees saying their employers remotely monitor their activity and a further 17 per cent unsure whether they were being electronically monitored or not," Nahum said.

“When one in three workers say they are being monitored via webcam and 30 per cent say their every keystroke is being recorded, it's clear our industrial laws are not keeping pace with tech.

"If Australians want to stop this alarming theft of billions of hours of time, and hundreds of billions of dollars of income, policymakers need to strengthen workers’ power to demand reasonable, stable hours of limit, and fair payment for every hour they work. 

"This is all the more important with so many Australians working from their own homes.”

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