Night workers need fair rights to work life balance

07 August 2015

A recent report shows that there are now over 3 million employees who are regular night workers. The TUC has published recommendations to better protect their wellbeing and help them give a better service to the public.

The new report - A Hard Day’s Night, shows that night working has grown since the recession, and highlights the evidence that it can have a negative impact on work-life balance and family life.

In 2014, there were 200,000 more night workers than in 2007 – a total of 3,168,000 people. This is an increase of 6.9 per cent between 2007 and 2014. The proportion of employees who are night workers is also increasing; in 2007 it was 11.7 per cent of all employees, and it 2014 it had risen to 12.3 per cent.

Plans to increase public transport provision at night, and proposals for a seven-day NHS, are likely to lead to further increases in night work. And the greater availability of night-time transport may lead to more retail and leisure services adopting night opening.

The negative health impacts of night work are already well-documented, such as heightened risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression. However, less attention has been given to the impacts on home life and relationships.

A Hard Day’s Night reviews the available research, which shows that night working can increase the risk of relationship problems, can affect the emotional wellbeing of a night worker’s children, and is associated with higher childcare costs. But the negative impacts of night working are less when employees have more influence and control over their shift patterns.

The TUC recommendations that:

  • Employers and unions should ensure that night working is only introduced where necessary.
  • Where night working is introduced into a workplace, no existing workers should be forced to work nights.
  • Shift patterns should be negotiated between unions and employers.
  • Workers should have some element of control over their rota, so that they can ensure that the shifts they work are best suited to their individual circumstances.
  • Workers should always have sufficient notice of their shift patterns so they can make arrangements well in advance. Changes at short notice should be avoided.
  • The remuneration paid to those working nights should properly reflect the likely additional costs of childcare and inconvenience that night shifts can entail.