A new survey showing 37% of employees are not paid for regular overtime is further evidence of an epidemic of unreasonable hours of work in Australia, the ACTU said.

The JOB Futures/Saulwick Employee Sentiment Survey of 1,000 employees found 37% normally work an average 7.3 hours of unpaid overtime each week. The figures for full-time workers showed 47% work an average of 7.9 hours unpaid each week.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said that the survey provided further evidence of a growing culture of extreme and unfair working hours which had a negative impact on workplace safety, productivity, and family life.

Ms Burrow said that the survey results were consistent with previous studies showing high levels of workplace stress and employee dissatisfaction with excessive hours.

The survey found that one-quarter of all workers, and one-third of full-time employees, want fewer hours; 40% of employees report high stress levels at work.

“Employers and governments should recognise that as a community we have a problem with unfair and excessive working hours. Unions are working to help people exercise their industrial right to say no to unreasonable overtime,” Ms Burrow said.

A new right for employees to refuse to work unreasonable overtime was established by the Full Bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in July in response to the ACTU’s Test Case on Reasonable Hours.

Ms Burrow said that the Howard Government refused to recognise the working hours problem and opposed the ACTU’s Test Case. Workplace Minister Tony Abbott’s Department instead told the Industrial Relations Commission that:

“there is no demonstrated widespread problem of employees being required to work long or excessive hours.”

Bureau of Statistics data shows that almost one-third of full-time employees – about 1.8 million Australians – work more than 48 hours a week, giving Australia the second longest working hours of OECD countries.