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Unpaid work costing Aussies $8,000: ‘Time theft’

Australian people walking in the mall. Australian money notes. Unpaid work concept.
Aussie workers are losing more than $8,000 per year doing unpaid work. (Source: Getty)

Aussies are doing six weeks of unpaid overtime per year, equating to more than $92 billion in lost income.

New research by the Australia Institute found the average worker was losing more than $8,000 per year - or $315 per fortnight - by doing work beyond what they were paid for.

On average, workers are doing 4.3 hours per week of unpaid overtime, with full-time workers doing even more time at 4.9 hours per week.

“Our research shows unpaid overtime is a systemic, multi-billion-dollar problem, which robs Australian workers of time and money,” report author and research economist at the Australia Institute Eliza Littleton said.

“This is time theft. Unpaid overtime harms our quality of life and reduces our time with family, friends and those we care for.”

According to the survey, seven out of 10 workers (71 per cent) did overtime and 44 per cent of those workers said they did it “often”.

Having too much work was the most common reason people worked overtime (36 per cent), followed by staff shortages (28 per cent), fewer interruptions when working outside normal hours (26 per cent) and manager or supervisor expectations (23 per cent). More than a third of workers (38 per cent) said overtime was an expectation in their workplace.

More than half of workers surveyed (56 per cent) said they were unhappy with their current working hours and reported negative side effects like physical tiredness, stress and anxiety, and being mentally drained.

“The prevalence of overtime suggests that ‘availability creep’ has eroded the boundaries between work and life,” Littleton said.

“Workplace laws could be updated, including creating a ‘right to disconnect’ as recommended by the Senate Select Committee into Work and Care, and as exists for employees of Victoria Police, and Queensland Teachers.”

Queensland teachers recently won the “right to disconnect”, allowing them to completely switch off after work and ignore any calls or emails from parents and other teaching staff.

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