With the legal profession among the most overworked in the country, a plan to encourage workers to "Go Home on Time" last week saw almost half of the workers signed up to the initiative unable to leave the office on time, despite their best intentions.
Only 55 per cent of people who signed up to the "Go Home on Time Day" campaign actually left the office on time, with many respondents blaming their bosses for not letting them go home.
At the prompting of The Australia Institute, employees were encouraged to "Go Home on Time" on Wednesday, November 25, in an effort to make a dent in the reported $72 billion in overtime they're owed by their employers.
Of the 20,000 people who registered for a "leave pass" to get out of the office on time on 25 November, just in excess of half actually put it to use on the day, a follow up survey by The Australia Institute revealed.
Some people reported opposition to the idea of "Go Home on Time Day" from managers, with respondents saying that bosses intentionally loaded them with work because they knew what day it was - one saying that management laughed at the idea and another instructing employees to not even say the phrase "Go Home on Time Day" out loud.
Overall the most common reasons cited were having too much to do (68 per cent), colleagues were working late (11 per cent), forgot to go home on time (7 per cent) and the boss made them stay late (7 per cent).
Some of the other reasons why people didn't leave the office were: "a last minute job had to be done before I left the office; a late meeting was called and ran overtime; I had to wait for an important email from a foreign country; I got "in the zone"; I had a presentation the next day and I have an unrealistic boss who expects 12 hours unpaid overtime per week.
The Australia Institute established the day in response to findings that Australian workers are "donating" more than their annual leave entitlement back to their employers in the form of unpaid overtime.
A survey by the institute found that each year Australians work more than two billion hours of unpaid overtime. Furthermore, international comparisons show that Australians work the longest hours in the developed world - and law firms, which don't have the best reputation when it comes to work/life balance, have certainly played their part in helping us achieve that dubious honour.
"Ultimately, managers and business owners have a responsibility to create an environment in which employees can work reasonable hours without risking their career, their health or their relationships," said the report's co-author, Josh Fear.
According to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), job security fears have put pressure on people to work extra hours for nothing, while others have felt they have no choice because of increased workloads. ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said that the estimated two billion hours of unpaid overtime each year was astonishing and that workers should receive payment for any overtime they do.