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Unpaid overtime ‘commonplace’ for part-time council employees – Unison

Unpaid overtime amongst part-time workers in schools and councils has become commonplace and is “exploitative”, trade union Unison has stated.

A survey of more than 2,600 part-time workers – who make up around 60% of all employees in local government and schools – revealed that nearly two-fifths of respondents (39%) work up to two hours of unpaid overtime each week, with 12.5% working 3-4 hours and almost 10% working 5-10 additional hours for no pay.

A fifth of respondents also stated that they are covering the work of a redundant or vacant post as well as their own, with almost half a million posts slashed from local government alone under the coalition government.

Almost one million workers are classified as working part-time because they work less than the standard working week of 37 hours, or 36 hours in London. These workers are not paid enhanced overtime rates until they reach full-time hours, allowing employers to ‘exploit’ them by offering term-time only contracts in schools, or contracted hours that are slightly lower than full-time in local government.

The majority of part-time workers are concentrated in low paid jobs, and many have more than one job to survive because full time work is not available. Of those surveyed, 75% of them earn between the full-time equivalent of £13,505 and £23,151, well below median UK earnings of £27,000.

Heather Wakefield, head of local government at Unison, said: “Part-time workers are the lifeblood of local government and schools and local services would collapse without them. Yet they are facing an all-out assault on their pay, conditions and hours of work.

“They are routinely used to fill full-time gaps in the workforce left by redundancies, but often with no security of contract, hours or income, and no overtime pay.”

Unison also stated that the survey highlights the start of a trend in zero hour contracts in councils and the high degree of flexibility required of many part-time workers.

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