Two in five civil servants check email over the weekend – study

Survey from union Prospect also hints at culture of unpaid overtime

Two in five civil servants check their email or respond to telephone calls during the weekend, while more than a quarter will do so during their summer holiday, according to research from trade union Prospect.

The association recently quizzed almost 3,000 of its members who work in the civil service and found that 40% of respondents typically use their work email or telephony accounts over the weekend. Furthermore, more than one in four are expecting to do so while taking annual leave this summer.

Additionally, the survey found that almost 60% of staff worked excess hours every week. A further 17% said that they regularly worked excess hours at least every month.

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The poll found that, on average, staff worked more than nine additional hours a week, the equivalent of more than an additional working day every week. The figure is above the average of seven hours unpaid overtime a week estimated for central government workers in the GMB trade union’s analysis of Office for National Statistics figures.

Garry Graham, Prospect’s deputy general secretary for public services, told PublicTechnology sister site Civil Service World that the results were “not surprising but are deeply worrying”.

He added: “Working in the civil service is becoming synonymous with low pay and long hours and there is increased evidence of stress and burnout in employees.

“Ministers and senior officials need to wake up to the stress and pressure the civil service is under. The most recent People Survey for the civil service indicated that 42% of staff were struggling to achieve an acceptable work-life balance with three-quarters believing they would be better rewarded dong similar jobs elsewhere.

“There is a fundamental mismatch between resources and workload.”

The poll also found that a majority of respondents believed their organisation had a problem with excessive hours and workload, which was also a key reason cited for people being unable to take annual leave.

Prospect has 141,000 members. It represents scientists, engineers, managers, and other specialists working across various industries in both the private and public sector.


Sam Trendall

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