A substantial Australian employment survey of 3,400 organisations has found a sizeable increase in the amount of overtime hours being worked — the majority of which is unpaid overtime.
The annual Hays Salary Guide, compiled by recruitment firm Hays, found that of the organisations polled, only 8 per cent — or around 270 of the 3,400 — had managed to decrease the rates of overtime being worked in the past year.
The recruiter also interviewed 1,600 professionals nationwide, and found that 57 per cent of people not employed under a modern award are unpaid for the extra hours they work.
For the most part, the overtime hours aren’t much each week — although they quickly add up.
More than two in five (43 per cent) said they work up to 2.5 hours of overtime in an average week, while a further 29 per cent work between 2.5 and five hours of overtime per week on average.
Furthermore, the research suggested that 18 per cent are working between six and 10 hours of weekly overtime, while one in every 10 workers are putting in 11 or more hours each week.
Hays suggested that, with overtime hours blowing out, it is little wonder 27 per cent of people who say they are currently or planning to look for a new job in the next 12 months cite poor work/life balance as one of their reasons for doing so.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen skill shortages intensify while business activity has increased. This has led some employers to turn to their existing team to ensure expanding workloads are completed on time,” the firm’s Australia and New Zealand managing director, Nick Deligiannis, said.
“But there is a cost, with rising overtime impacting the physical, mental and financial health of employees, particularly if it becomes excessive.
“This ultimately leads to rising turnover. If an organisation then becomes known for lengthy overtime, it’ll also lead to heightened candidate attraction challenges.”
The recruiter’s findings come despite employment growth tracking above the long-term average, according to figures from the ABS, although these additional jobs are being taken up by the participation rate sitting at record highs, currently at 66.1 per cent of the adult population.
Australia’s unemployment rate increased to 5.3 per cent in July 2019, the ABS revealed last week.
According to the ABS, the total monthly hours worked increased by 1.8 per cent in the year to July. That is an increase of 500,000 hours on the same month last year, reaching a total of almost 1.777 billion hours.
Hays’ Mr Deligiannis urged employers to take a look at the workloads of their staff or risk losing them.
“Employers could consider whether a new permanent team member is required to relieve the pressure on existing staff. Or perhaps a temporary candidate could be brought in to assist at times of peak workloads,” he said.
“It’s also important to offer genuine work/life balance initiatives so that employees can focus on their health and wellbeing after periods of lengthy overtime.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.