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Unpaid overtime

Photo: Section from NTEU’s Go Home On Time Day 2015 poster

It’s not uncommon in many workplaces, and universities are no exception. It seems like such a little thing – working just a snippet of unpaid overtime here and there. An example of this, for professional staff at least, is working through lunch and not claiming the time (though the principle also applies to academic workloads). When people do this, they sometimes tells themselves a story to justify their actions. ‘It’s my time and I can do what I want with it’ must be a pretty common theme. Using the lunch-hour example, I’m going to show that there are good reasons why this justification, and a few others, simply don’t stack up.

Imagine that you are beset with urgent work and impending deadlines (this shouldn’t be too difficult). As a member of professional staff at a university, your contract stipulates a set number of hours per week. Your standard work day is eight hours, including a one-hour, unpaid, lunch break. Sometimes, you eat you lunch at your desk while continuing to complete work-related tasks. This extra time often ends up un-accounted for (and unpaid) in that you don’t claim it as overtime, flexitime or otherwise take an extra hour off somewhere else in your week. There are legal reasons why you shouldn’t do this. But there are also ethical reasons why this is not OK.

It’s not your time to give away. You might tell yourself that it is your time. If you want or need to donate it to your institution for the good of the students and staff that rely on you, then it is no one else’s business. This is incorrect.

Dr Samuel Douglas University of Newcastle M@BeachPhilosophy

Your institution has bought the right to your time and labour, but not all time and time and effort in your life! What they have actually purchased is the time and labour that is covered by the contract between you and your employer – nothing else. Your contract cannot cover time that is not covered by your contract; this is logically impossible.

page 44 • NTEU ADVOCATE • vol. 23 no. 2 • June 2016 •

Authorised by Grahame McCulloch, NTEU, 120 Clarendon St, Sth Melbourne VIC

Advocate, June 2016  

Vol. 23 no. 2. NTEU members' magazine.

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