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Unpaid overtime – what’s the real cost?

Updated: 14 Apr 2016

Almost one in three (31 per cent) employers report that their people are clocking up increasing amounts of overtime, and 40 per cent say that those extra hours are unpaid, according to a survey by recruiting expert Hays in China.


In the survey of 2,600 employers, conducted as part of the 2014 Hays Salary Guide, employers were asked about the amount of overtime or extra hours being performed by their employees over the past year. Only 15 per cent had managed to reduce overtime with 54 per cent saying that the level of overtime or extra hours being performed inside their organisations had continued but had not increased.


“Of particular interest was the 31 per cent of employers who told us that the amount of overtime being performed by their employees had increased in the past year,” says Simon Lance, Regional Director of Hays in China.


“Of those, 61 per cent said the amount of overtime had increased by up to five hours a week and 28 per cent by five to 10 hours a week. A further 11 per cent reported that the level of extra work had increased by more than 10 hours a week,” he says.


The Hays Salary Guide also revealed that 40 per cent of overtime was unpaid.


“Pressure on organisations to increase productivity means that existing teams are being asked to do more work with the same number of heads,” says Simon. “They are looking for maximum productivity. But if not managed carefully, this has the potential to cause workplace stress and employee burnout, which will cost a lot more in the long run.


“There could be a very good business case for adding permanent headcount and there are some fantastic candidates available right now. Employers need to keep monitoring not just overtime but absenteeism and attrition rates so they know what all that overtime is really costing,” says Simon.


Hays recommend that employers take a number of steps to help manage employee engagement during sustained periods of increased overtime.


These include:

  • Actively monitoring the amount of overtime being performed and by which team members as well as absenteeism and general employee wellbeing;
  • Remaining open to adding permanent headcount as a way of increasing productivity and reducing the risk of existing employees leaving;
  • Using temporary staff to relieve pressure on overtime hot spots;
  • Actively encouraging managers to use regular feedback, paid rewards and unpaid rewards to recognise those employees putting in the extra time;
  • Monitoring business activity so staff can be given time off in lieu where possible.


Get your copy of the 2014 Hays Salary Guide by visiting, contacting your local Hays office or downloading The Hays Salary Guide 2014 iPhone app from iTunes.


Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.


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About Hays

Hays is the leading global specialist recruiting group. It is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide.


Hays Specialist Recruitment  (Shanghai) Co., Limited ("Hays China") operates across the public and private sector, dealing in permanent positions. Hays China’s eighteen specialisms span Accountancy & Finance, Banking, Architecture, Construction, Education, Engineering, Executive, Finance Technology, Human Resources, Hays Resource Management, Information Technology, Insurance, Life Sciences, Manufacturing & Operations, Oil & Gas, Property and Sales & Marketing.


Hays China operates four local offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Guangzhou. It is the local representative office for Hays plc, which is a global company. As at 31 December 2013 we employed 7,979 staff operating from 240 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms.  


Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA.