Daily Archives: July 29, 2007

JLP Responsible Sourcing Part VII: Working Hours

In our last post, we discussed the importance of employee representation and their need to freely associate, corresponding to section F of the report. In today’s post, we cover section G of The John Lewis Partnership‘s Responsible Sourcing Supplier Workbook which covers working hours.

In some countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and China in particular, some workers routinely work 12-16 hours, 7 days a week, in peak periods. Even in the UK, studies have found that a surprisingly high proportion of workers in the food production industry exceed 48 hours per week (and even 60 hours per week) on a regular basis. Furthermore, it is often the case that workers are not allowed to refuse overtime. The facts reported in the workbook are staggering:

  • nine economies reported over 2,000 annual hours worked per person in the latest year for which data was available to the ILO
  • 17% of UK employees work more than 48 hours per week
  • one in four workers in the UK working long hours reported suffering a physical ailment or stress as a result
  • an estimated 1.3 Billion working days are lost each year in the UK due to stress-related illness
  • workers in China often work 360 hours per month, and some up to 400 hours per month, almost twice the legal limit

This issue should be tackled immediately if you think you may have a problem. You can start by doing the following:

  • keep good records;
    this will allow you to identify the “hot spots” where long hours are the norm and seasonal peaks
  • gradually reduce hours;
    this will reduce employee stress and exhaustion and will result in increased productivity without any additional action; furthermore, improved production planning, communication, and training will also result in increased productivity allowing for a further hour reduction if overtime is a serious issue
  • increase wages to a fair level;
    if many employees are working long hours by choice, then this is a sign that they are not able to make ends meet working normal hours and wages need to be raised; furthermore, the increase in employee contentment and decrease in overtime-related stress and exhaustion should make up for most, if not all, of the productivity loss
  • make sure all overtime is voluntary
  • ensure all employees have enough time off for rest and sleep; furthermore, ensure that they have at least one day off a week, even during seasonal peaks – this can be accomplished with proper planning
  • make sure management fully understands the law and the rules related to overtime;
    managers who don’t are more likely than the employee to be the source of the problem

In our next post, we’ll tackle the seventh major issue addressed by the workbook, that of equality of treatment. (You can access all of the posts in the series (to-date) by selecting the JLP category at any time.)