Night shift workers now make up 12% of the workforce. This represents an increase of 9% between 2011 and 2016 (source: TUC 2016).

Who is a night shift worker?


Night shift workers are staff who usually work at least three hours throughout the night between 11pm and 6am. You can agree in writing different night work periods with your employees, however, they must be seven hours long and must include midnight and 5am.

Night shift workers are entitled to the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage, but there is no statutory requirement for a higher night working rate.

Staff aged 16 or 17 typically aren’t allowed to do night shift work. There are special cases where young people can work until 10pm or 11pm to midnight and 4am to 6am or 7am, such as those working in businesses including hotels and restaurants.

Young people who work in hospitals, advertising, sports or perform cultural activities are also entitled to work a night shift.

The downsides of night shift work


Lack of sleep has a negative effect on night shift workers’ circadian rhythm, which controls temperature, metabolism, sleeping, etc.

Long periods without proper sleep increase the chance of mistakes, accidents, and injuries. The risk of something going wrong is higher where night work involves tasks that require a lot of mental or physical energy.  

Other effects of night shift work can include:

  • Poor health
  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Disrupted family and social life

Responsibilities as an employer


Since the consequences can be severe for night shift workers, there are things you must do as an employer to try to minimise these risks:

  • Offer a free health assessment. You’ll need to provide a health assessment for new night shift workers. This can be a questionnaire or a medical assessment. A qualified medical professional will give their opinion (subject to confidentiality) about whether your worker is fit to do night work. It’s compulsory for you to make the health assessment available, but it’s up to your worker whether they accept it. You need to continue to offer health assessments regularly to your night shift workers. Employment Assistance Programmes, such as Bright EAP, are also available to help your employees cope with the pressures of night shift work.
  • Keep appropriate records. You’re required to maintain records to prove that night workers haven’t gone over the recommended working limits under the Working Time Regulations (WTR) 1998. You also need to keep records of health assessments and the dates you offered health assessments. All records relating to night workers need to be kept for a minimum of two years.
  • Carry out risk assessments. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 set out your duty to do risk assessments to spot hazards and physically and mentally demanding work.
  • Control work hours. To comply with the WTR, you should ensure that your night shift workers don’t work in excess of an average of eight hours within a 24 hour period. You can calculate the average over 17 weeks (or up to 52 weeks if you and your staff agree).  

Recommendations for night shift work


There are several things you can consider to reduce the possible pitfalls of night shift work, including:

  • Creating a well-organised shift schedule.
  • Avoiding permanent night shift work.
  • Allowing a minimum of two nights’ full sleep when switching between day and night shifts.
  • Providing training about night shift work risks and sources of information and support.
  • Giving tips on how to stay healthy while working nights.

You can make sure that both your business and your staff get the best from night shift work by considering health and safety and through the implementation of efficient rota planning policies.

Find out how your business can benefit from choosing BrightHR’s shift planning software.