Australia’s Go Home on Time Day

November 26 2009 was Go Home On Time Day in Australia.  The intention of this day, organised by The Australia Institute, was to highlight the difficulty many workers face in a achieving this seemingly simple task.  The Australia Institute’s expresses the aims this way:

  • The typical full-time employee is working 70 minutes of unpaid overtime a day, which equates to 33 eight-hour days per year, or six and a half standard working weeks.
  • Across the workforce, the 2.14 billion hours of unpaid overtime worked per year is a $72 billion gift to employers and means that 6% of our economy depends on free labour.
  • Converting unpaid overtime into full time jobs would create 1.1 million new jobs
  • Unpaid overtime harms our health, our personal relationships, our communities and our workplaces

The work/life balance advocates would say not doing unpaid overtime as a regular part of the job is an important balancing technique.

The Australia Institute has provided SafetyAtWorkBlog with some statistics from the special day’s 20,000 registered participants which may illustrate some of the difficulties of achieving that work/life balance.

Over 55% of registered participants managed to leave work at the contracted time on 26 November 2009.  Of those who could not, almost 70% said they could not because they “had too much work to do”.

Of those who went home on time, these were the most common activities:

  • Spent time with family/played with kids
  • Exercised/went to the gym
  • Household jobs/chores
  • Caught up with friends
  • Walked the dog

Those who admitted to working unpaid overtime (1836) gave the following reasons

To get the work done

86.5%

Because my boss/employer expects it

28.8%

To help colleagues

23.1%

To ensure my job is safe/secure

21.6%

To demonstrate how hard I work

14.2%

Because everyone else does it

13.6%

There seems to be only one genuinely positive and collegiate reason, to help colleagues.  The others indicate job and personal insecurity, unreasonable workloads or bad time management on behalf of employees and employers.

The statistics are of mostly curiosity value but are further indications of the social structural problems that contribute to increased work mental health risks.  Of those who signed up but could not get away from work, a couple of reasons given were

  • Boss knew I was trying to go home on time and loaded me up.
  • Management laughed.
  • My Boss said I was not to say the words out loud.

These days are intended to raise awareness of specific issues in society and Go Home On Time Day is a worthwhile addition but as with Asbestos Awareness Week, at some point awareness must move to action.

Kevin Jones

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