Brits work longest – and less productive – hours in EU

New research from the TUC has found that British workers put in more hours than anywhere else in the EU, and yet economic productivity is still low.

18 Apr 2019| News

Full-time employees work an average of 42 hours a week, nearly two hours more than the EU average, and adding up to two and a half weeks more work a year, the analysis showed.

The average full-time week in the UK has shortened by just 18 minutes over the last ten years, which means it would take 63 years for British workers to achieve the work-life balance of EU workers even if the EU average remained the same.

What’s more, the long hours have no added benefit for the economy, with productivity lower in the UK than in countries where workers take on fewer hours.

For instance, Germans typically work 1.8 hours less a week than Brits, but are 14.6% more productive. The Danish put in an enormous four hours less a week but are 23.5% more productive.

So what’s going on here? The Institute of Employment Rights has long called for workers skills to be put to their best use to add to economic productivity – that means providing for higher quality jobs and providing better workplace training. Economic productivity is currently being squashed by the low-hours, low-pay, insecure work that has become rife in our country, with one in ten workers unable to guarantee how many hours of work they can expect to get (and therefore unable to guarantee a salary). On the other side of the coin, millions of workers complain of mounting workloads and being pressured into overtime. It should come as no surprise that these tired, stressed workers – who are more often than not in jobs that do not provide opportunities for progression and do not harness their skills – cannot provide the economic value to the UK of which they are capable.

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Britain’s long hours culture is nothing to be proud of.

“It’s robbing workers of a decent home life and time with their loved ones. Overwork, stress and exhaustion have become the new normal.

“It’s time for a change. Other countries have shown that reducing working hours isn’t only good for workers, it can boost productivity.

“As new technology changes our economy, the benefits should be shared by working people. That means shorter hours, more time with family and friends, and decent pay for everyone.”