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Employment Relations, National News Current Affairs

Employers steal more than 280 hours from workers each year: Go Home on Time Day report

The Australia Institute Centre for Future Work 2 mins read

Media release | Wednesday 22 November 2023

Despite record-low unemployment, Australian employers are still managing to steal more than 280 hours from their employees each year. 

That’s the finding of the Australia Institute’s 2023 report, Short Changed, tracking annual work hours and unpaid overtime for Go Home on Time Day on November 22. It has also found the average worker is losing out on $11,055 a year, or $425 a fortnight, to unpaid overtime.

Key findings:

The Australia Institute surveyed 1,640 people between August 29 and September 6. Of those, 61% were in paid work

  • Employees reported doing an average of 5.4 hours of unpaid work a week overall

    • Full-time employees perform an average of 6.2 hours, and casuals or part-timers four hours 

    • Workers aged 18 to 29 do the most unpaid overtime (7.4 hours) a week

  • This ‘time theft’ equates to 281 hours a year or seven standard 38-hour weeks spent working for free

  • Australian employees are losing a cumulative $131 billion to unpaid work a year

  • Nearly half (46%) are not satisfied with the amount of paid work they’re doing and either want more or fewer hours:

    • A third of all workers want more paid hours (35%), but this rises to 54% for under-30s

    • Half of casuals (49%) of two in five part-timers (40%) would like more paid hours 

    • Another 11% of all workers would like fewer paid hours

“This survey shows just how uneven the labour market is. We’ve got many workers, especially casuals in insecure jobs, wanting more hours. At the same time, employers are more likely to demand long hours, including large amounts of unpaid overtime, from full-time workers,” Dr Fiona Macdonald, Policy Director, Industrial and Social at the Centre for Future Work said. 

“Record-low unemployment should have pushed both satisfaction with working hours and paid hours higher as employers scrambled to fill labour shortages. Instead, ‘time theft’ has actually blown out by 57 hours per worker since 2022 and has returned to near pandemic-era levels.

“This dispels simplistic arguments that workers have the upper hand on employers because of recent industrial relations reforms. In fact, we’ve seen workers agree to more hours due to the cost of living crunch. Perversely, this has resulted in employees giving their bosses a free kick because many of those hours end up being unpaid.

“Providing more protections for workers in these insecure positions, as proposed in the Closing Loopholes legislation currently before parliament, is an important priority for improving Australian labour market outcomes.”

The Australia Institute is a member of the Australian Polling Council. The polling methodology, long disclosure statement and margin of error for polling questions are included in the appendix of the report.

Media contact:
Georgie Moore
0477 779 928



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