Home / In the news / Press releases

Working 9 to 5(am)? Call for National Crackdown on Unpaid Overtime Post–Covid

Working 9 to 5(am)? Call for National Crackdown on Unpaid Overtime Post–Covid

The Government is being urged to create more British public holidays and introduce measures to combat increasing unpaid overtime, following a national report into the worrying future of work.  

The report called “Just Work” by theological think tank Theos claims that unpaid overtime has increased in recent years – exacerbated by more people working from home due to Covid. The UK has long since lost the religious tradition of resting on Sundays but an alternative must now be found – for the sake of family life, mental health, and the environment argues the report. 

Set to be launched tomorrow (July 20th), the timely report follows news that the Government is considering the “right to work from home” at a time when many are calling for the “right to switch off”.  

Covid aside, the world of work is changing due to artificial intelligence and robots, ecological and climate change, and human vulnerability argues the report. If action is not taken now to protect workers from these new threats we will face a future of further infringed privacy, increased surveillance, and poor mental health. 

Dr. Madeleine Pennington, Head of Research at Theos, said: “We are calling on the Government and policymakers to stay ahead of the game in a changing world of work to help protect the mental health of the nation. And now, in what we hope is the wake of the pandemic, is the time to re–evaluate and make changes for the future. 

“We have effectively lost the space for rest and we must redress this balance. The UK has the fewest number of public holidays of comparable economies and increasing these is one way to do that.”  

The boundaries between work and leisure are dissolving rapidly, further exacerbated by the pandemic. The report raises a poignant question: “Have we been working from home or sleeping in the office?”  

With working from home comes longer hours (unpaid overtime) and increased surveillance of employees.  

This increasing use of surveillance technology on employees must be “stopped in its tracks”, claims the report. However, other technology in the workplace can have a positive impact in helping employees disconnect, like apps that only send emails during office hours. Technology is both part of the problem and the solution, it argues. 

The report, written by Paul Bickley and Barbara Ridpath, also urges the Government to help tackle the increasing hours of unpaid overtime, by encouraging employers to pay fairly for extra hours of work, or by hiring more staff to reduce overtime completely.  

Finally, Theos is also calling for the introduction of retraining resources as robots and technology replace humans in the workplace. 

Businesses should fund the retraining of people they let go, argues the think tank. It also recommends that everyone should have a training budget with contributions from employers, the Government, and individuals that can be used throughout our working lives. 


[Notes to editors] 

  1. YouGov polling was carried out as part of this report in January 2021 – at the height of the third UK lockdown. Data showed quite a high dissatisfaction with work – 33% agreed that ‘work is just a way of earning to provide for life’s necessities’, compared to 16% who agreed that ‘I feel that in work I’m doing things that are really meaningful’ and just 10% who agreed that ‘I believe my current work is part of my calling and vocation’. A significant number – 45% – said that they would train for a different career if they had the opportunity.  

  1. Theos’ new report Just Work by Paul Bickley and Barbara Ridpath will be launched on Tuesday, July 20th. An advanced copy of this report is attached under embargo.  

  1. The report online launch event ‘Working 9 to 5(am)?: Work and its Limits in the Post–Covid World’ is at 4pm on 20th July and will focus on the question of limiting work. More information can be found here:  

  1. For more information, or to arrange an interview please contact Paul Bickley (Author) on 07789 943 527 or or Lizzie Harvey (Head of Communications, Theos) on 07778 160 052  

  1. Paul Bickley is Research Fellow at Theos. His background is in Parliament and public affairs, and he holds an MLitt from the University of St Andrews’ School of Divinity. Paul is the author of Building Jerusalem? Christianity and the Labour Party (2010) and numerous Theos reports.  Barbara Ridpath is Associate Fellow at Theos. She served as Director of St Paul’s Institute at St Paul’s Cathedral from 2014–18, and then as a member and subsequently Chair of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group of the Church of England. She is the co–author of two Theos publications and also serves as a non–executive director of two financial organisations, and on the International Advisory Board of the Institute for Business Ethics.  

  1. Theos is the UK’s leading religion and society think tank. It has a broad Christian basis and exists to enrich the debate about faith and society. 




Interested in this? Share it on social media. Join our monthly e–newsletter to keep up to date with our latest research and events. And check out our Supporter Programme to find out how you can help our work.

 Photo by Carl Campbell on Unsplash

Paul Bickley

Paul Bickley

Paul is Head of Political Engagement at Theos. His background is in Parliament and public affairs, and he holds an MLitt from the University of St Andrews’ School of Divinity.

Watch, listen to or read more from Paul Bickley

Posted 19 July 2021


See all

In the news

See all


See all

Get regular email updates on our latest research and events.

Please confirm your subscription in the email we have sent you.

Want to keep up to date with the latest news, reports, blogs and events from Theos? Get updates direct to your inbox once or twice a month.

Thank you for signing up.