The world’s largest survey of healthcare workers has found that a majority of employees at Britain’s National Health Service work for no pay at some point every week. In a new poll of more than 420,000 employees, nearly 3 in 4 staff members reported working unpaid overtime, reflecting a similar trend in the United States.
Most UK Health Employees Work Unpaid Overtime
The National Health Service’s staff survey tracks the experiences of over 423,000 healthcare professionals on an annual basis, asking specialists, general practitioners and nurses to weigh in on their feelings, motivations and challenges working for an employer that serves nearly 1 million patients every 36 hours.
In this year’s installment, workers noted some marked improvements, according to The Guardian. Only 37% of NHS employees felt unhealthy due to work-related stress, the national medical system’s lowest rate since 2012. The vast majority of workers also feel empowered in their roles, with around 75% having made suggestions to improve the workplace.
Significant staffing problems, however, have led to an extraordinary rate of unpaid overtime. In fact, recent staffing deficiencies have forced around 72% of employees at the NHS to work additional unpaid hours, outside of their regular schedules. Nearly 60% of these workers labor without compensation on a weekly basis.
Brexit Promises Weakened Labor Protections
Worst of all, labor protections are only expected to decline further when Britain leaves the European Union. In 2003, the consortium of nations placed a limit on how many hours employees were allowed to work.
Under the European Union’s Working Time Directive, British workers aren’t allowed to work more than 48 hours per week on average. That will certainly change once English employers are no longer regulated by EU prescriptions. This problem isn’t just restricted to health workers. Millions of employees in the UK aren’t getting paid for their work, a new independent report from British credit comparison service TotallyMoney suggests.
The average English worker puts in an average of 8.4 hours of overtime every week – and around 65% of these hours are uncompensated. To make these conclusions, analysts at TotallyMoney surveyed 2,000 British workers across a wide range of industries. Overtime was most common in publishing and journalism, but teachers came up close behind, working an average of 6.5 hours of overtime every week.
US Health Workers Hit With Long Hours
Full-time workers in the United States often report similar difficulties in maintaining a healthy work / life balance. A 2014 Gallup poll of over 1,200 employees found the average worker spending around 47 hours on the job, nearly 7 hours more than the traditional workweek defined by federal labor law. A significant minority noted far longer hours, with 18% of employees spending over 60 hours at work every week.
As in Britain, these trends have become most pronounced in the healthcare industry. According to a 2016 report from Medscape, around half of nurses in America work overtime hours on a routine basis, often due to chronic staffing shortages at hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Medscape’s survey, which included the responses from over 10,000 nurses, 52% of licensed professional nurses reported regularly putting in overtime hours, with 41% mentioning 6 or more overtime hours per week. While registered nurses reported more moderate workplace demands, a significant minority (47%) said they worked overtime, too.
Significant variations were found based on workplace. While around 59% of nurses at skilled nursing facilities worked overtime, only 31% of nurses in the public health sector did. Medscape didn’t ask the employees how many of these hours came under mandatory overtime policies or went unpaid.