Australians working $71.2bn in unpaid hours.

11/05/2016 14:36:46

New research highlights low work-life balance amongst Aussie workers

Approximately $71.2 billion worth of unpaid hours are being worked by Australian full-time employees per year, according to research conducted by HR and recruitment specialists, Randstad.

Randstad’s employer branding research has found full time employees are working, on average, 42.25 hours per week – 4.25 hours more than the contracted 38 hours per week they are supposed to work – equating to $71.2 Billion[i] in unpaid overtime.

Part-time workers reported working on average 25 hour weeks, an hour above the average contract. If part-time workers work for the whole year, this equates to an additional $3.2 billion[ii] worth of hours worked that go unpaid by employers.

Many Australians are working considerably longer hours than required by their employment contract.

On the surface, employers may see the additional hours staff are putting into their job as a positive indicator they are engaged and invested in producing the best work possible. But the reality is, the benefit of any increased output comes at the expense of workers’ personal time.

Work-life balance is of critical importance to workers. Allowing and even encouraging staff to consistently work additional hours for ‘free’ during what should be leisure time, with no real acknowledgement of the extra time investment, will have a big impact on a company’s employer brand, particularly in regards to employee attraction and retention.

The employer branding research reveals a third (34%) of Australian workers who intend to change employers in the next 6-12 months, cite work-life balance issues as a factor in their decision. Of those staying with their employer, almost two thirds (62%) cite good work life balance as the top reason to stay.

In addition, almost half (49%) of workers surveyed, 2% up on 2015, rate good work-life balance as one of their top five considerations when assessing a potential new employer. And work-life balance is currently the third most important factor Australians consider before accepting a job.

An employer brand determines the quality of the workforce. It drives the level of engagement, motivation and retention of top talent – all factors which are ultimately linked to higher revenues, profit margins and overall returns on investment.

Organisations capable of attracting the best talent will have an edge over their competition. In fact, organisations with a strong employer brand have 28% lower staff turnover and 84% of people would leave their current job to work for a business with a better reputation, according to Randstad research.

So establishing good work-life balance is key. If your people feel they are working in a culture where work and personal time is respected, you will have satisfied, productive and more engaged employees. But if they are regularly working overtime, something which might have become ‘the norm’, it’s time to review why that is, and find solutions to change.

Across the board, employers in Australia score strongly for factors like financial health, strong management and good training programs – however businesses still have a way to go when it comes to good work-life balance, which came in low on the list at 9th place.

The first challenge is identifying what work-life balance means for your workforce, and then implementing changes that integrate it into your employer value proposition.

Consider conducting meetings with a range of team members or create an anonymous corporate culture survey to ask people what the business can do to improve their work-life balance.

Are certain people or teams overloaded with work? Would greater flexibility, such as the opportunity to work from home at times, help? Could any new technologies improve efficiencies in the business?

It’s important to remember a one size fits all approach won’t work in today’s multi-generational workforce.

“Baby boomers approaching retirement age may want the right mix of flexible working conditions. Generation X, many of whom are parents, may consider working less hours during school holidays, key to improving their work-life balance. Younger generations may be willing to work longer hours in the lead up to taking extended leave or a sabbatical,” Ribuot concludes.

“What’s needed is an open, honest conversation between an employee and their manager, to find a solution that meets the needs of both parties.”


[i] This figure was worked out using the following sums:

42.25 hrs (the average time worked according to the report) –38 hrs (what should be worked according to Fair Work) =4.25 extra hours worked on average per week.

$1,556.30 (the average FT weekly wage according to ABS) /38 hrs (avg. hrs worked per week) =$40.96 per hour

$40.96 x 4.25 extra hrs = $174.08 extra per week

$174.08 x 50 (average number of working weeks) = $8,704 per year extra time given

$8,704 x 8,180,400 (no. of full time staff in Australia according to ABS Labour Stats) = $71,202,201,600 or $71.2 billion

[ii] This figure was worked out using the following sums:

25 hrs (the average time worked according to the report) – 24 hrs (what should be worked part time) = 1 hr extra per week

$17.29 (minimum wage) x 1hr = $17.29 extra per week (17.29 x 3,729,200 = $64.5 million per week)

$17.29 x 50 (average number of working weeks) = $864.5 per year extra given

$864.5 x 3,729,200 (number of PT workers according to ABS) = $3,223,893,400 or $3.2 billion per year (if worked every week part time)