Suicide attempts, family breakdown and physical illness are some of the effects of extreme working hours documented in a university study released by the ACTU today.

The study of 50 working families from around Australia details the impact of longer working hours on employees, their partners, children, and local communities.

The Fifty Families report, by researchers from the Universities of Sydney and Adelaide, was commissioned by the ACTU as part of its submission to an Australian Industrial Relations Commission Test Case on working hours.

Releasing the report today, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said Australians now worked the second-longest hours in the OECD, with a third of full-time employees working hours that would be unlawful in Europe.

“Family life is breaking down because of the increasing pressure to work longer and unpredictable hours. The ACTU’s Reasonable Hours Test Case provides a solution for employers and employees to negotiate appropriate hours for their industries,” Ms Burrow said.

Report author Barbara Pocock, from Adelaide University’s Centre for Labour Research, said the Fifty Families study showed the sometimes dramatic effects of long hours on individuals and the hidden toll on families and communities.

“One of the most surprising aspects emerging from the research is the lack of control employees have over their hours of work and the low level of negotiating rights reported by many workers,” Dr Pocock said.

“Even though our communities are being eroded by excessive working hours, many employees report that they are not even paid for their extra work,” Dr Pocock said.

A five-member Full Bench of the Industrial Relations Commission is scheduled to hear the ACTU’s Reasonable Hours Test Case in November.