UK workers in this industry are most likely to be underpaid according to official data. 

This week is Mental Health Awareness week (10-16 May), and a big contributor to poor mental health is workplace stress. With Google searches for ‘stress at work’ rising by 460% in the past 7 days in the UK, The Knowledge Academy set out to find which sector could be suffering the most due to two common stress-related factors: being underpaid and overworked. 


  • Workers in the education industry are the most likely to be underpaid – 26% of their weekly hours are unpaid overtime
  • The accommodation and food service industry (22%) and other service activities (19%) follow in second and third
  • Workers in scientific and technical industries could lose TWICE as much in unpaid hours as those in wholesale and retail
  • Education workers would rack up the most if paid for their unpaid overtime – £136.03 weekly per person

Which industry workers are most likely to be underpaid?

The study analysed the latest Labour Force Survey data to reveal that the education industry most likely to be undercompensated for their work. On average, 26% (8.94) of their weekly hours are unpaid, which amounts to being owed £136.03 a week.

Following behind in second are those in accommodation and food service activities, with 22% of their weekly hours worked as unpaid overtime. On average they would be owed £60.05 a week which is more than half of Education’s owings, showing a huge difference in hourly gross pay.

Other service activities (including beauty, astrology, social and pet, as well as genealogical organisations) are the third most likely to be underpaid – in fact 19% of their weekly hours worked are, which amounts to £79.27 a week out of pocket.

Taking joint fourth with 18% of weekly hours being unpaid are those in the arts, entertainment and recreation industry and real estate activities. Despite working the same amount of overtime weekly, a difference can be seen in how much they would earn for their unpaid overtime, with those working in real estate earning £16.11 more each week on average.

IndustryWeekly Hours Worked (including overtime)Weekly Hours Unpaid OvertimeHourly Gross PayWeekly Unpaid Work (%)Weekly Unpaid Overtime (£)
Accommodation and food service activities30.236.66£9.0122.00%£60.05
Other service activities32.986.11£12.9819.00%£79.27
Arts, entertainment and recreation31.625.65£12.4918.00%£70.59
Real estate activities33.365.85£14.8218.00%£86.70
Professional, scientific and technical activities37.496.39£19.5817.00%£125.18
Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles33.345.58£11.5817.00%£64.59
Administrative and support service activities35.045.81£12.8717.00%£74.84
Agriculture, forestry and fishing45.237.12£11.6316.00%£82.84
Public administration and defence; compulsory social security37.25.73£16.8115.00%£96.35
Transportation and storage40.456.02£14.2415.00%£85.77
Water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities40.85.95£15.5015.00%£92.17
Human health and social work activities33.864.63£13.9814.00%£64.68

Which industries are set to lose the most in unpaid overtime?

After education (£136.03 a week), those working in professional scientific and technical activities stand to lose the second most from their unpaid hours – £125.18 on average each week. Whereas the administrative and support service industry miss out on £74.84 a week and those in wholesale and retail trade £64.59. Differences in hourly gross pay and how the same amount of work across industries doesn’t often equal the same pay can cause further stress for some industries.

On the lower end of the compensation scale are employees in the human health and social work industry. On average, 14% of their weekly hours worked is unpaid overtime (4.63 hours weekly). When taking their hourly gross pay of £13.98, people in this industry could be missing out on £64.68 weekly.

With 15% of their work counting as unpaid overtime, those working in the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation, transportation and storage industry and public administration and defence come in joint second to last.

However based on the findings, public administration and defence workers would be owed the most a week out of the three for unpaid hours (£96.35), compared to £92.17 for water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation and £85.77 for transportation and storage.

The knowledge academy graphic chart showing industry workers that are most likely to  be underpaid.