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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
UK working hours rise sharply
Mannequins in a shop window
Spare a thought for retail staff - they work the longest hours
An increasing number of employees are working more than 60 hours a week, according to a government survey.


I am determined to get the merits of flexible working onto the business agenda

Patricia Hewitt, DTI

One in six surveyed said they were working more than 60 hours a week compared to one in eight two years ago.

One in every eight women now work more than 60 hours a week, more than double the number of women doing so in 2000.

The survey by the Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) Work-Life Balance Campaign and Management Today magazine, paints a poor picture of working conditions in the United Kingdom.

The Working Time Directive, a piece of European employment legislation, introduced four years ago was meant to reduce working hours.

But, according to the survey, twice as many employees would rather work shorter hours than win the lottery.

Long hours culture

Most people who work 60 hours or more are young people.

Long hours culture
1 in 6 of workers surveyed now work over 60 hours a week compared to just 1 in 8 in 2000
25% of workers would like a better balance, but think their career would suffer
4 in 10 unstressed workers play regular sport
1 in 5 men have visited their doctor because of stress

Source: DTI and Management Today survey

For example, 21% of 30 to 39-year-olds work 60 hours or more compared to just 14% of the over-40s.

However, the majority of people are not rewarded for the extra hours they put in.

Three-quarters of employees currently work overtime, but of these, only a third are awarded with extra pay or time off in lieu.

Regional differences

People who work full-time in retail work fare particularly badly.

They work more hours than any other sector, with a quarter regularly working over 60 hours a week.

Londoners work the most hours overtime each week - an average of 12 hours, with accountants the most likely to be highly stressed.

Fitness
Sport helps relieve stress

Despite the concern about work-life balance, workers tend to be realistic about the business needs of the organisation.

As many as 81% of workers think their employers are right to put business goals first.

However, just over half also believe their employer has some responsibility to help them balance their work and home lives.

Patricia Hewitt, secretary of state for Trade and Industry, urged employers to work with their staff to find "sensible work-life balance solutions".

"I am determined to get the merits of flexible working onto the business agenda especially for the parents of young children who often find it the most difficult to balance work and home life."

Improved rights

The DTI is running a campaign to encourage work-life balance.

From 2003, parents of young and disabled children will gain the right to apply for flexible hours and employers will have to consider their requests seriously.

However, critics have said the measures are insufficient.

Employees will only have the right to ask for leave, and there will be no compulsion on the part of employers to offer it.

John Monks, general secretary of the TUC, said: "The government is absolutely right to highlight long hours and a lack of work-life balance.

"But the power to address the problem lies with them."

Sport relief

British industry loses 370m every year to stress-related sick leave, according to the Health & Safety Executive.

The DTI survey raises concerns about long hours and illness, as seven out of 10 stressed workers do not have any access to formal flexible working practices.

One way of relieving or preventing stress is through sport, according to the survey.

Four in ten of unstressed workers play regular sport compared to one quarter of those with high stress levels.

Only one in 50 highly stressed workers cycles to work, with the majority driving instead.

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The BBC's Jenny Scott
"A new government report suggests we're becoming a nation of workaholics"

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29 Aug 02 | Business
29 Aug 02 | UK
23 Aug 02 | Business
15 Aug 02 | Business
07 Aug 02 | Politics
25 Jul 02 | Business
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