Have you ever counted how many hours of extra work you do with no pay?
The latest research from The Australia Institute found the average Australian employee puts in six weeks of unpaid overtime per year and will cost workers on average $8,000 in 2022.
Today is Go Home on Time Day where we put the spotlight on having a healthy work/life balance and sparking conversation around how work can impact our mental health, relationships and sense of self.
Now in its fourteenth year, the day was introduced by the Centre for Future Work at The Australian Institute to shed light on the issue of time theft in Australian workplaces. That is, unpaid overtime.
This unpaid overtime costs the average employee $460 per fortnight. A large sum of money for most that could have otherwise gone toward groceries, public transport, other essentials or leisure activities to alleviate some of the stresses associated with work (particularly for those with a poor work/life balance).
All up, unpaid overtime is contributing to a staggering value of $125 billion per year across the whole labour market.
Now consider this against the rising costs of living and insecure work, and it’s clear to see there’s a big issue at hand.
The effect of COVID-19 on work/life balance
Despite union opposition, the Government has pushed ahead with a “new normal” approach to work post-pandemic, with most employees having returned to the workplace in some capacity but without important safety nets in place such as paid pandemic leave.
The knock-on effect from the rise in remote work is still very much felt today.
For people who could fulfil their roles from home, the burden of unpaid work was only exacerbated as the line between their home and working lives blurred further. Even more so for families and women who took on additional care responsibilities in response to the shift to remote schooling and the health and social crisis.
The pandemic also allowed insecure work to flourish.
It’s estimated that 4.1 million people (or 1 in 3 workers) are currently in insecure forms of employment, which includes employees in casual, on-demand and outsourced working arrangements, as well as temporary work visas and rolling fixed-term contracts.
These workers – particularly women and people from non-English speaking backgrounds – are the most susceptible to exploitation, pay inequality, financial stress and hardship.
Not knowing where your next pay cheque is coming from doesn’t just place unbelievable stress on your wallet, but your wellbeing, too.
Know your worth (and rights)
While creating a safe and secure working environment is the primary responsibility of the employer, we know that too often the burden lies with the employee.
That is why it’s crucial to set boundaries for yourself and your workplace.
Not only will they help you switch off outside of work hours, but they also contribute to a healthier work/life balance and better working relationships.
Boundaries can look like turning off your phone or silencing work emails after hours, taking short, regular breaks during the workday to recharge, delegating work to colleagues when you’re feeling swamped or taking a mental health day.
The most important thing is to communicate your boundaries to your manager or colleagues. This doesn’t have to be a scary conversation, a simple ‘Hey, just so you know I’m going to sign off at 5.30pm so if there’s anything you want to chat about before then let me know’, is more than fine.
But if you don’t feel comfortable communicating your boundaries, that’s okay too. Navigating these conversations can be intimidating, which is where your union can help. We also offer free confidential support if you need it.
Unions have a long history of pushing for better working lives for all Australians. It’s thanks to the hard work of the union movement and its members that workers have access to superannuation, annual leave, parental leave and so much more.
And the campaign still lives on today with unions continuing to advocate for job security, time theft and for the rights of workers to be protected.
If you believe the same, now’s the time to join your union.