Australian workers are donating an estimated $130 billion a year to their employers through unpaid overtime, according to a leading workplace thinktank.
The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work released the research to coincide with its annual “Go Home On Time Day” where it encourages workers not to stay back late at their workplace.
The centre’s survey found the average worker was doing 5.1 hours a week in unpaid work.
“That includes everything from going in early or staying late at work, to working through breaks, working through lunch, taking work home, answering emails in the middle of the night,” the centre’s director Jim Stanford told ABC News.
“All the different ways that work is trickling into our everyday lives adds up to quite a bit of time.
Dr Stanford said that was half an hour more than the findings from the centre’s survey last year.
He believes that the increase in unpaid work reflects “the profound insecurity that most Australians feel about their jobs.”
“People are staying late because they want to keep their employer happy, they want to show they’ve got a good work ethic, they’re hoping that they’ll be able to keep their jobs.
Dr Stanford also argues that this is a key reason why wage growth is so low, a phenomenon that is garnering much concerned attention at the Reserve Bank.
“And that’s exactly the same pressure that explains why Australian workers aren’t willing, at this point, to demand higher wages from their employers either,” he added.
Unemployment ‘the tip of the iceberg’ of insecure work
However, Dr Stanford said underemployment and insecure casual and gig jobs mean there is a lot of competition for secure, well-paid work that is putting downward pressure on wages and conditions.
“The unemployment rate itself is just the tip of the iceberg of the insecurity that Australian workers are feeling,” he argued.
“There’s over a million Australians who report being underemployed, that means working a bit but wanting more hours, and then lots more who are in very insecure work arrangements.”
Dr Stanford said there is not a single fix for this problem.
“We need more job creation, good jobs not temporary or insecure jobs,” he said.
“We also need to rebuild the institutions and the regulations that support workers in trying to get a fair deal from their employer.”