Employers in Australia engaging in unpaid overtime practices

Unpaid overtime is becoming more prevalent in workplaces in Australia, particularly for employees between 18 and 29.
By: | November 24, 2023

Despite record-low unemployment, employers in Australia extract over 280 hours of unpaid work annually from employees, resulting in an average loss of A$11,055 (US$7,244.84) annually.

Specifically, employees reported an average of 5.4 hours of unpaid work per week, with full-time employees contributing 6.2 hours and casual or part-time employees logging four hours weekly. Employees aged 18 and 29 were most affected, dedicating 7.4 hours per week to unpaid overtime. This “time theft” accumulates to 281 hours annually, equivalent to seven standard 38-hour weeks worked without compensation, causing employees in Australia to collectively lose A$131 billion (US$85.8 billion) each year.

These were findings from the Australia Institute’s Short Changed survey, which surveyed 1,640 participants with 61% engaged in paid work. The survey also highlighted dissatisfaction among employees regarding their paid work hours. Nearly half (46%) expressed discontent, with 35% desiring more hours, a figure rising to 54% among those under 30. Additionally, half of casual employees (49%) and two in five part-timers (40%) wished for more paid hours, while 11% sought fewer.

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“This survey shows just how uneven the labour market is,” Dr Fiona Macdonald, Policy Director, Industrial and Social at the Centre for Future Work, claimed. She emphasised the need for increased employee protection, highlighting the Closing Loopholes legislation before parliament as a critical step towards improving Australian labour market outcomes.

She also noted that the record-low unemployment rate should have led to increased satisfaction with working hours and paid hours, but instead, unpaid overtime has increased by 57 hours per employee since 2022, returning to near pandemic-era levels.