COVID-19 brings a rise in unpaid overtime

Australian workers are losing time and money in breach of Fair Work legislation.

Unpaid work has risen in Australia, with the average employee working 7 unrecognised hours every week, potentially losing $12,600 per year. 

Data from global payroll provider ADP relied on a survey of almost 2,000 Australian workers and indicated a significant increase in unpaid overtime since COVID-19 began. 

Prior to the pandemic, Australian employees were working an average of 5.8 unpaid hours per week, but now 70 percent of Australian workers are unpaid for 7.3 hours of labour per week. 

Worse, a quarter of Australian staff work 11 unpaid hours each week, marking a 10 percent increase from pre-pandemic levels. The proportion of workers regularly exceeding 20 hours of unpaid overtime per week rose from five to seven percent, with most of these staff classed as essential workers.

It is thought that the increase in unpaid overtime could be partially attributed to changes in workplace systems, including a move to more difficult to monitor work-from-home and hybrid working models. 

The rise could suggest that many Australian businesses are breaching recent changes to Fair Work legislation, with guidelines having been introduced requiring companies to electronically record hours worked and compensate workers for additional time. 

“We’re concerned that overtime hours worked remain unrecorded and therefore unpaid in Australia,” said Vice Presideent, Client Service Asia Pacific for ADP Kylie Baullo. “There’s a greater impact as workers move in and out of lockdowns with the ever-changing health situation in their state.” 

According to Ms Baullo, many businesses found it difficult to implement legislation, struggling to navigate HR systems and large workforces.

However, regulations are becoming stricter, with some states, such as Victoria, introducing wage theft laws to prevent deliberate underpayment. Other states are expected to follow. 

“Never before have employers had to think about the hours being worked by people on annualised salaries.  This Fair Work change has introduced that requirement and COVID has made it even more complex. A year on, we know that businesses are still struggling but recognise the need to implement these changes,” said Ms Baullo.

The data is part of the ADP® Research Institute’s People at Work 2021: A Global Workforce View worldwide study into the future of work.

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