Comment

Long hours and little reward: it doesn’t add up

Nurses are often told other professions have drawbacks too – but at least they offer better pay

Nurses are often told other professions have their drawbacks too but at least they offer better pay

Long hours, disrupted sleep and dissatisfaction with work-life balance: a job description more often associated with nursing than with investment banking until March this year.

That was when the news broke that first-year analysts working at US investment bank Goldman Sachs had threatened to quit unless their working conditions improved.

The high-paid sweat shop of banking

They worked an average 95 hours a week, and slept for only five hours a night, they said. They rated their employer and their work life a two out of ten, on a scale where ten was very satisfied a finding

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Nurses are often told other professions have their drawbacks too – but at least they offer better pay

Picture: iStock

Long hours, disrupted sleep and dissatisfaction with work-life balance: a job description more often associated with nursing than with investment banking – until March this year.

That was when the news broke that first-year analysts working at US investment bank Goldman Sachs had threatened to quit unless their working conditions improved.

The ‘high-paid sweat shop’ of banking

They worked an average 95 hours a week, and slept for only five hours a night, they said. They rated their employer and their work life a two out of ten, on a scale where ten was ‘very satisfied’ – a finding that makes the results of the recent NHS staff survey look stellar in comparison.

But the reaction to the plight of these junior bank analysts was not all supportive. Several media outlets carried stories from more senior bankers arguing that long hours was part of the culture and a necessary part of on-the-job learning and apprenticeship, even if it was something of a high-paid sweat shop.

Nurses’ pay hits a plateau as their careers progress

The message to the dissatisfied analysts was that there are plenty more candidates waiting for any job vacancy that arises in the fiercely competitive and high-paying investment banking sector.

‘Most NHS nurses reach an earnings plateau within a few years of qualifying, and can then assume only small incremental progression’

Tough as the working conditions may be, these young bankers can anticipate a well-paid future, earning high six-figure incomes or more.

And that – stating the obvious – is where investment banking and many other professional careers differ from nursing.

Most NHS nurses reach an earnings plateau within a few years of qualifying, and can then assume only small incremental progression, unless they are promoted, or the overall pay system is uplifted.

The NHS Pay Review notes that nurses’ earnings tend to ‘flatten out as a career progresses’.

Working unpaid overtime – with no end in sight

In addition, unpaid overtime is a sad fact of life for around two out of three nurses.

The latest NHS Staff Survey reveals 65% of registered nurses and a third of nursing support workers work extra unpaid hours.

These results echo what members were reporting to the RCN in July 2020 – a survey found one third of nursing staff in all sectors worked longer than their contracted hours.

Of this number, 40% were not being paid for the additional hours, while a further 18% were only sometimes being paid.

For the young bankers, it is short-term pain for significant long-term financial gain.

For nurses, there is no such trade off.


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