Australians Working 6 Weeks Unpaid Overtime, Costing Economy Over $92 Billion: Go Home on Time Day Report

New research shows Australian workers are on average working 6 weeks unpaid overtime per year, costing over $92 billion dollars in unpaid wages across the economy. The average worker is losing over $8,000 per year or $315 per fortnight due to what researchers have branded “time theft”.

23 November 2022 marks Go Home on Time Day, an initiative run by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, and now in its fourteenth year.

Economists have recommended a ‘Right to Disconnect’ to tackle what they say is the systemic problem of unpaid overtime. The research reveals that employers are profiting from 2.5 billion hours of time theft worth over $92 billion in unpaid wages amid a cost-of-living crisis and declining real wages.

Key Findings:

  • The average Australian worker performs 6 weeks unpaid overtime per year, worth over $8,000 per worker per year
  • The ‘Right to Disconnect’ is supported by six in seven (84%) workers, and has recently been recommended by the Senate Select Committee on Work & Care
  • Across the workforce, this equates to $92 billion in lost income per year, roughly the same as the Commonwealth’s annual expenditure on healthcare
  • Workers share of national income is at an all-time low of 44% in 2022, while the profit share of income is at an almost record high of 30%
  • Respondents reported 4.3 hours of unpaid work per week, equivalent to 15% of total working hours. This equates to 224.3 hours per year per worker, or six standard 38- hour work weeks.
  • Across the whole labour market, over half of all workers (56%) are unsatisfied with their working hours
  • Almost one in two (46%) workers in Australia reported that they wanted more paid hours
  • 84% workers support the Federal Government legislating a ‘Right to Disconnect’ that directs employers to avoid contacting workers outside of work hours, unless in an emergency, with only 8% who oppose

Negative impacts from unpaid overtime:

  • The most commonly experienced negative consequences were physical tiredness (35%), followed by stress and anxiety (32%), and being mentally drained (31%), each affecting around a third of workers.
  • Over a quarter of workers reported that overtime interfered with their personal life and relationships (27%), and 17% responded that it led to disrupted or unfulfilling non-work time.
  • One in five workers identified that working outside scheduled hours negatively affected their relationship with work, with 22% who reported reduced motivation to work and 19% experienced poor job satisfaction.

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

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

“This Go Home on Time Day, our research reveals that unpaid overtime is robbing Australian workers and the economy of over $92 billion per year. This time theft only further exacerbates our current cost of living crisis.

“With workers share of national income at the lowest point ever, a focus on reducing unpaid overtime would improve quality of life and ease the cost of living pressure for millions.

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

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

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