The TUC has used official statistics as the basis for a claim that in 2009 some five million workers gave away over £27 billion pounds in unpaid overtime.

A number of my clients have implemented short time working during the recession as a perfectly legitimate means of avoiding compulsory redundancies. None of them has tried to extend that to requiring unpaid overtime.

Firstly, whether an employer can require an employee to work overtime is a matter of contract. Unless the contract says something to the effect that overtime working when required, is a condition of employment, then overtime working will be voluntary.

The second distinction is typically between those who are paid on an hourly basis – who are usually paid for overtime. Those who are paid a salary are often told that they are required to work such hours as are required for the proper performance of their duties. This is particularly the case for those in managerial positions.