According to figures published last week by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), full-time workers in the UK have one of the longest working weeks in Europe.

The ONS found that people in the UK work longer than the EU average (42.7 hours compared with 41.6), with only people in Austria and Greece working a longer week (43.7 hours). The shortest full-time hours were in Denmark at 39.1 hours.

Employees working in lower skilled jobs on average worked the longest paid hours in 2011, with crane drivers putting in 52.8 hours per week; heavy goods vehicles drivers doing 48.4 hours; and mobile machine drivers and operatives working 48 hours.

The figures show that in April-June 2011 average working time for all in employment (both full and part-time) stood at 36.3 hours a week, a fall of 4.7 per cent on the 1992 level of 38.1 hours a week.

However, this is because of changes in the structure of the economy, with a higher proportion of employment in the service sector where hours tend to be shortest (35.0 a week in 2011 compared with 41.2 for both manufacturing and construction). The increase in part-time working (up from 24 per cent of all in employment in 1992 to 27 per cent in 2011) has also affected average hours.

The analysis also showed that although full-time managers and senior officials work 46.2 hours per week, they are only paid for 38.5 hours of them. Likewise, professionals work 43.4 hours in total, but are only paid for 36.6.

By contrast, process, plant and machine operatives and workers in the lowest skilled jobs, work paid hours of 44.2 and 41.4 hours respectively, with a very small gap between paid and total hours.

Commenting on these figures, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

'These figures shine a light on the valuable but too often unrewarded extra hours that UK workers put in every week. Employers should do more to recognise the unpaid overtime that their staff do, which contributes £29bn to the UK economy every year.

'But while average hours are falling across the economy - both as a result of the recession and changes in working practices - UK workers are still doing the third longest shifts in Europe, with only Austrians and Greeks working longer.

'Smarter working practises and an end to pointless presenteeism would help make staff more productive and get a better work-life balance.'

For more information, read the report on the ONS website