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Rise in numbers working more than 48 hours a week, says TUC

More people are working for longer than 48 hours per week now than before the economic downturn in 2007, according to research published by the TUC.

In 2007 some 3.3 million people put in long hours, falling to 3.0 million by 2010. However, since then, the number has increased to 3.4 million, it said.

The jump of 15 per cent - or 453,000 people - since 2010, follows well over a decade of decline in long-hours working, the TUC said.

It means that 13 per cent of the UK workforce now works longer than the EU Working Time Regulations (WTR) maximum average of 48 hours per week.

Opt-out phase out?

Individuals are allowed to opt of the limit, but the TUC said that many felt 'pressured' to do so, and called for the opt-out to be phased out.

Working more than 55 hours per week can increase risk of stroke by a third compared to those who work 40 hours, according to a recent report from University College London.

But experts said that removing the opt-out could prevent employees from doing voluntary overtime or take second jobs when they wanted to, while also removing flexibility for employers.

The 48-hour maximum is calculated over a 'reference period' of 17 weeks for most professions. This means that under the current system it is still possible to work for more than 48 hours one week, as long as the average over 17 weeks is under 48 hours.

A Government report recently said that no links could definitively be drawn between the introduction of WTR and an improvement in workplace health and safety. But it did find that WTR had helped reduce long-hours working since 1998 when they were introduced.

Acas publications and services

Acas has detailed information on Working hours, and our experts can visit you at your organisation to help you minimise associated problems; see Contracts and hours: how Acas can help.

Practical training is also available on related areas, such as Contracts and terms and conditions, Health, work and wellbeing, Employment law update, Human resources management for beginners and Flexible working.

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