LETTERS: Working too hard - and at what cost?

From Ms Vanessa Schepers

Sir: It was interesting to read the article of Helen Wilkinson asserting that "long hours in a demanding job can ruin relationships" ("Has love been lost to labour?" 6 October) and, in the same paper, of the suppression of Professor Cary Cooper's study, which linked long hours of work with heart disease ("Paper on health risk of 48-hour week 'pulped' "). It is not only those who are carving out a career who desire greater flexibility and understanding from their workplace.

The younger generation may want to spend more time with their families, but many of them have yet to discover that they will not be in a position to make their own life-enhancing decisions. For the majority, returning to work after having a family means returning to a lower-skilled job and finding that child care is both expensive and over-subscribed.

It is the male manual workers who have the longest hours - on average 45 hours, compared with 39 hours for non-manual male workers - with lorry drivers, among others, clocking up 50-hour weeks (no doubt maintaining contact with long-distance phone calls and snatched weekends away). While women's pay averages only 70 per cent of men's, it is little wonder that their male partners continue to take all the overtime they can get while the woman remains the primary carer.

Britain is growing more and more divided, with an increase in both dual- earner families and non-earner families. This is not only threatening the health of the individual and the health of the family, but also the health of the economy. Surely what is needed is a representative group to call for a national minimum wage, properly contracted hours of work and a subsidised network of quality childcare. Now, where could you find those?

Yours faithfully,

Vanessa Schepers


Working for Children,

London, N7