Unpaid SME staff overtime worth £1.6bn weekly

New research finds UK SME staff working one additional unpaid day every week, leading to stress and the urge to change career.

Employees of UK small businesses are working an average of eight extra hours unpaid every week at work and home – worth £1.6bn to the UK’s SMEs – according to new research. Worryingly, 16 per cent of those surveyed work even more hours, with younger workers (aged 18-24) averaging 11 extra unpaid hours every week.

The main reason for SME workers doing so many extra hours is to keep up with the volume of work, followed by pressure from their manager and, more positively, 28 per cent wanting the business to do well. However, this is leading to nearly half of people feeling more stressed, and over a third feeling taken for granted by their employer.

Managers might take note that 36 per cent of SME staff said they rarely, or never, got credit from their bosses for putting in the extra hours. What’s more, almost a third of them have considered leaving for another job or changing career completely as a result of the frequent unpaid overtime. A further quarter would consider starting their own business, or going freelance, to escape their current roles.

Clare Dimond, a leading business coach and author of ‘Free Choice’ said: “With a smaller number of staff, the contribution of every employee in an SME is critical. Employers that value the time, creativity and mental clarity of each individual will see the impact on their bottom line and staff retention rates.

“Directors can role model good mental health behaviour for their teams. Avoiding stressful thinking, spending time exercising or with family and creating a culture of strong relationships, and individual contributions, make for a healthy, inspired career and home life.” 

Guy Moreve, Head of Marketing at Paymentsense commented: “We know from working with over 50,000 of the UK’s small businesses that SMEs are constantly challenged to balance the often-unpredictable demands of growth, with looking after hardworking staff – especially in potentially uncertain economic times.

“Keeping employees happy should be a priority, given its impact on productivity levels. The good news is that perks don’t have to cost a fortune. Our own research has shown that an early Friday finish, the chance to work flexible hours, and a free day off here and there: for birthdays, duvet days or to help with moving house are the amongst most sought-after benefits.” 

‘Can you just…?’ Top 8 reasons SME staff work late unexpectedly

  1. Last minute request from client or customer – 39 per cent
  2. Last minute request from boss – 37 per cent
  3. Meetings overrunning at the end of the day – 34 per cent
  4. Keeping up with admin – 32 per cent
  5. Attending meetings at client or customer locations – 24 per cent
  6. Equipment or computers playing up – 21 per cent
  7. Manager’s poor time management – 20 per cent
  8. Their own poor time management – 19 per cent