Spare a thought for the millions of night workers who won't get a lie-in when the clocks go back

Published date
27 Oct 2018
We all depend on Britain’s night workforce, so let's ensure they have good rights and protections at work
Doctor looking at screen in office
Growing demands on health and social care mean more women are working night shifts Credit: Getty/Janie Airey

It’s hard to believe, but winter is almost here.

With the clocks going back tonight, at least most people will be able to enjoy an extra hour’s sleep.

But spare a thought for the millions of UK workers who won’t be getting a lie-in because they work through the night.

Today we reveal that the number of people working night shifts has increased by more than 150,000 over the past five years.

It now stands at more than 3 million workers – or one in nine of the total UK workforce.

Whether its nurses looking after patients or taxi drivers getting people home safely, night workers keep our country running when most people are tucked up in bed.

That’s why we want employers to consider the impact of night work on staff, and make sure their workers are treated fairly.

And we’re clear that decisions to extend night working should always involve talks with unions.

What we know

We already know that night work is no easy task.

Its negative health impacts include heightened risks of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and depression.

But that’s not all – night work can also have an impact on home life and relationships.

And many workers complain that night working makes it difficult to manage their caring responsibilities.

What we found

More women working at night

Women accounted for two-thirds of the rise in night working since 2013, with 101,000 more working at night than five years ago.

Of the total 1,247,000 women who work at night, 561,000 work in the care and nursing sector.

So while men still outnumber women overall, the growing demands on health and social care mean more women are working night shifts.

An ageing workforce

Most night workers are still aged between 30 and 49, but this is starting to change.

Increased employment in social care and the trend towards working later into life mean there are more older people working at night

As a result, there are now 674,000 people aged 50-59 working at night – a rise of 115% since 2013.

And the number of night workers aged 60 or over has shot up by nearly 400% over the same period.

What we want

We want to see night workers treated fairly.

That means no workers being forced to work nights – and shift patterns that suit individual needs.

It means tightening the rules on night working so workers can enforce their rights at Employment Tribunal.

It means employers working with unions to ensure night working is only introduced where absolutely necessary.

And when it is introduced, workers should get a higher rate of pay to compensate for the extra cost of childcare and inconvenience that results.

Fair play for night workers

You may not see them every day, but we all depend on Britain’s night workforce.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure they have good rights and protections at work.

Because unless employers play fair and play safe on night work, public safety will be at risk and families will suffer.