Living side by side : Underemployment and Unpaid Overtime

Marlyn Glen

8 March 2012

The last Thursday in February was specially designated by the TUC as " Work Your Proper Hours Day"

This was to highlight the issue of unpaid overtime , which , according to the TUC, results in an extra 6 hours a week on average being worked by 1 out of every 5 members of the workforce in Scotland.

Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary described the practice thus :

"The heroic amount of extra unpaid hours put in by millions of workers makes a vital – but often unsung – contribution to the UK economy.

"While many of the extra unpaid hours worked could easily be reduced by changing work practices and ending the UK's culture of pointless presenteeism, a small number of employers are exploiting staff by regularly forcing them to do excessive amounts of extra work for no extra pay."

UNISON estimate that last year the scale of unpaid overtime in the UK that it gave their employers £29.2 billion of " free work." , and this is occurring at a time of a public sector pay freeze.

Overwork takes its toll on health with greater sickness rates and a general decline in the quality of life outside of work.

Union surveys on the gruelling culture of long working hours have found that a third of their members said that they did not have enough time to be with their families.

Community involvement , social life, and even hobbies all fell victim to disproportionate working hours.

The recession is driving the excessive hours culture whereby job insecurity mounts through tougher workloads resulting from less staff and shrinking budgets.

Compare this with its mirror image , those who need to and want to work longer and be paid for that work.

They are struggling on their present income to provide for themselves and their families and want to work more hours per week simply to make ends meet.

Late last year the STUC called this situation Scotland’s " full-time employment deficit" and measured it last month to stand at a vast 502,000.

This is its estimated number of those amongst the unemployed, the economically inactive and the underemployed who would like full-time employment .

What would Dundee’s "full-time unemployment deficit " look like?

Using the same methods as the STUC, there would be around 3,800 amongst those currently unemployed who would wish for full-time employment as opposed to part-time employment.

Amongst the economically inactive , those who are currently not working because of illness, raising a family, etc, the figure would be some 4,600, although it is acknowledged that many of the economically inactive would require support to return to working.

"Underemployment" is usually associated with people being overqualified for a job they are currently doing because qualifications, while required for for good jobs in the past, today can no longer guarantee them in a deteriorating labour market.

However, here it is defined as :

those people who are in work but wanting another job in addition to their current job(s);


wanting another job with more hours instead of their current job(s);


wanting to increase the total number of hours worked in their current job(s).

The Scottish Government retains figures for the number of Scots who are underemployed in every local authority area with Dundee’s now standing at 5,200, or almost 10 per cent of the 16-64 year old population.

So the "full-time employment deficit" in Dundee could be over 13,000.

The smaller figure of 5,500 receiving Job Seekers Allowance in the city last month which is the usual measure of joblessness simply does not reflect the numbers looking for a better level of employment to raise their standard of living.

Billions of pounds worth of unpaid overtime is living alongside thousands of people desperate to work more hours so that they can provide a higher standard of living for their families.

The match up between is unlikely to be completely even , and so the remedy for both is an expansion of the economy that puts people back into full-time work.

When economic confidence returns , job insecurity and presenteeism should retreat.

Increasing job prospects reduces fear of losing a job , and it raises morale at work.

However, unemployment, underemployment and the flatlining economy are the price still being paid for Government immobility on jobs.

Back to previous page