More than half of people in the UK (56%) do not take the full lunch break they’re entitled to, meaning employers are getting more working hours out of us than they’re paying for.
According to new research, we’re losing a whopping £33,264 in earnings over the course of a career for the work we do during unpaid lunch breaks, amounting to 1.6 times the average UK annual salary.
While the average lunch break designated to workers is 40 minutes, the average time taken each day by the average employee is only 27.
The study, by job site totaljobs, surveyed more than 7,000 workers across the UK to analyse the nation’s lunch break habits.
The research indicated that many workers fail to take proper lunch breaks as a result of their mind-set and the culture that has been created, as opposed to a company policy dictated by senior management.
Though 65% said they were actively encouraged to take a proper lunch break, only 33% of these workers said they did. The remaining 32% found themselves too busy to take a lunch break and often skipped it altogether.
Workload and pressures were found to dominate the thoughts of workers across the country, with 68% saying they simply had too much work to do or last minute unexpected tasks dropped on them to justify taking a full lunch break.
Shockingly, over a quarter (27%) skip lunch altogether between two and four times a week. Though employers legally have to designate time for lunch and allocated breaks and many companies are actively encouraging workers to use it, employees still clearly feel they have not earned their break due to their volume of work.
This will naturally cause a knock on effect to the rest of their working day, with 37% of women and 26% of men stating they felt stressed when they have had to skip lunch.
There is also a clear difference in industrial perceptions of a lunch break. While over half (59%) of those in the manufacturing industry were likely to use their lunch break in full, only 31% of those in banking used their allotted time for lunch. Nearly a quarter (24%) of those in the catering industry always worked during their lunch break in stark contrast to the media, where only 6% of employees in industry said that they regularly work through their lunch.
Commenting on the result David Clift, HR director at totaljobs, said: “We understand workers feel under pressure and are competitive with the colleagues, but it is alarming to see how everyday the culture of working through lunch has become in this country.
“Taking time to move away from your workstation has many proven benefits and can allow workers to return back to work refreshed and reinvigorated for the second half of the day.
“One encouragement is that this culture is largely coming from employees themselves rather than being enforced by employers. That said, we would call on employers to encourage their staff to take regular breaks away from their workstation and to reap the benefits that come from this.”