‘Phantom hours’ costing UK businesses £37m a week

A survey of shift workers in the retail, hospitality and leisure industries has found staff to be overstating their working hours by an average of almost half an hour a week.

Staff rota scheduling firm Rotaready, which conducted the survey, said these ‘phantom hours’ are costing UK businesses as much as £37m each week and around £1.9bn annually.

Rota scheduling issues are cited by employees as the main reason for overstating their hours, with half of respondents saying they work through their breaks and others claiming they have too much to do. Other reasons include being underpaid (15%) and one in six because “everyone does”.

Additionally, half (53%) of shift workers surveyed admitted to having ‘pulled a sickie’, and almost one in five have exaggerated their hours because they believed they were ‘correcting an injustice’ by sending signals to employers that they are not happy.

According to Rotaready businesses are still using outdated systems to complete the “complex task of building rotas”, which fails to take into account staff leave, commitments and fair shift patterns.

Carl Holloway, co-founder of Rotaready, said: “The huge problem of phantom hours is a symptom of shift workers feeling they’re unfairly treated at work. However, managing a workforce is no easy feat for employers, especially across multiple sites.

“Managers are being forced to work with antiquated and inflexible systems – in many cases still using pen and paper – to handle complex issues such as payroll, forecasting and staff scheduling.”

Rotaready co-founder Jamie Harvey added: “With the increasing pressures on businesses – be it increased business rates, rising minimum wages, or employer pension contributions – we’ve already lost the likes of Toys R Us and Maplin, while well-established chains like House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer are closing masses of shops to stay afloat.

“Staffing is a business’ biggest cost and in this harsh environment it’s more important than ever for businesses to do everything they can to improve efficiency.”

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