Survey reveals stretched workers denied breaks and annual leave

Managers at the Royal Mail, currently being balloted for industrial action over threatened job losses, work ‘nearly 1,800 jobs’ worth of unpaid overtime a year’, Unite the union has said.

A Unite survey of 1,000 of its Royal Mail managers undertaken in the spring revealed that they are giving the company 7,767 ‘free’ hours per week which is equivalent to about 1,800 extra jobs, if extrapolated over the working year and the total managerial population of the company.

The damning findings come as about 2,400 managers across over 1,000 workplaces are being balloted for strike action and industrial action short of a strike. The ballot is due to close on Wednesday 29 June – and the union warned that letter and parcel delivery chaos was on the cards this summer.

The dispute centres on plans to remove 542 frontline delivery managers, on top of the already 450 jobs axed, alongside a redeployment programme to bring in worsening terms and conditions.

In November 2021, Royal Mail recorded a £311 million profit.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “While the boardroom is awash with profits, Unite’s Royal Mail managers are effectively holding the business together on unpaid overtime.

“Instead of these senseless plans to sack 542 workers and drive down pay, Royal Mail should be addressing why this business is relying on our members’ sacrifices to keep the service operating as customers expect.

“Yet again, another UK business is being jeopardised by the misguided priorities and boardroom greed. Unite will continue to oppose these attacks on our members every step of the way.”  

The Unite poll also showed:

  • 68 per cent of Royal Mail managers do not take a meal break, while 68 per cent of those that do take less than 20 minutes


  • 83 per cent never leave their workstation, taking their break where they work. Just eight per cent said they ‘leave the office’ for their break. 


  • In addition, 37 per cent of managers work weekends despite it not being a contractual requirement, while 66 per cent feel pressurised to reply to ‘work’ emails outside of working hours. 88 per cent receive business calls outside contractual hours, including weekends.


  • 79 per cent are working the extra hours to keep on top of ‘admin’ and 57 per cent say that they have to ‘work noticeably extra hours on return from annual leave’ to catch up on their workload.


  • 48 per cent of managers do not take all of their annual leave, and nearly 30 per cent experience ‘resistance’ from the company when asking for leave. 29 per cent said every year they ‘cancel leave already booked for work purposes’. 60 per cent say it’s is difficult to take time off in lieu (TOIL) accrued.

Unite national officer with responsibility for Royal Mail, Mike Eatwell added: “The results of the survey of our members are a damning indictment of the top management and the way they run the Royal Mail. It should also act as a strong incentive for them to get around the negotiating table or face a strike.

“A strike by our hard-pressed and overworked managers would cause a summer of chaos to letter and parcel deliveries – now is the time to talk.”

Unite claims that the job cuts are driven by shareholder greed. The union also fears that the business is threatening the universal service obligation whereby it must deliver to every household in the UK six days per week. 


Notes to editors:

The Guardian article on Royal Mail profits

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

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Unite is the leading union in the UK and Ireland, dedicated to defending and improving members' jobs, pay and conditions. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.