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Unpaid overtime in UK workplaces, impacting employee retention and business performance


An embedded culture of overwork and unpaid overtime in UK workplaces is taking a severe toll on business and workers, according to new research released today by Protime UK.

The research, conducted among 2,000 UK employees, found excessive workloads and unrealistic expectations from managers are driving a work environment that undermines employee, motivation, productivity, retention and overall business performance.

The study found that half (54%) of UK employees put in between half a day and four days per month of unpaid overtime, each month, equating to 19 million days of uncompensated work.

One in five employees said they want to leave their current job in next six months to escape overwork while just under half (49%) say they won’t take on additional work or pursue management responsibility (42%) citing the same reason.

Other key findings of the research on unpaid overtime in UK workplaces

Hybrid workers are more vulnerable to overwork:

33% of employees say they are more likely to work additional unpaid hours if they are working out of the office.

Unrealistic workloads are routinely given to UK workers:

28% report being unable to get their job done in the working day and have to work additional hours as a result.

Managers aren’t doing enough to prevent overwork:

27% of employees want managers to proactively ensure work is more evenly spread in the team while 20% say the work they are delegated is unrealistic for the time available.

Overwork damages business performance and employee engagement:

38% of workers say they are less productive with 29% saying the quality of their work is impacted. 28% say it harms the relationship with their manager.

Employee wellbeing is also undermined by overwork:

53% experience increased stress and anxiety, 41% of employees feel burnout and 25% don’t take holidays as a result of overwork.

Further comments on the research into unpaid overtime

Commenting on the research Simon Garrity, Country Manager for Protime UK said: “The UK’s widespread culture of overwork is a ticking time bomb that business and HR leaders can’t afford to ignore. Excessive workloads and unrealistic expectations are burning employees out, killing motivation and productivity, and driving away top talent from organisations.

Our data reveals a vicious cycle for employees, as lack of manager support and boundaries enables overwork, which in turn harms well-being, retention and the bottom line.

It’s important for employers to understand unpaid work and missed holidays aren’t a sign of dedication, they are symptoms of a system which has to work better.

It’s only by creating a culture that respects employee time, prioritises workload management, and encourages healthy work-life balance, businesses can reap the benefits of a happier, more productive workforce.”

The findings are available in the research report, which can be downloaded by visiting this link: “The True Cost of Overtime: How overwork impacts employee performance”


About Protime

Founded in 1995, Protime is the market leader in time recording, workforce scheduling and access control. Thanks to a continuous focus on innovation, the company delivers workforce management solutions across a wide range of customers and sectors. For example, Protime has over 5,000 time registration installations in Europe and this at almost 4,700 customers across Europe. Protime has been voted Great Place to Work for 10 years in a row and strives to be a “Once in a lifetime employer”. The organisation has about 500 ‘Protimers’ and achieved a turnover of EUR 54.6 million in 2023.


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