Issue date
27 Oct 2018

As the clocks go back tonight (Saturday) to mark the beginning of winter, the TUC is urging greater protection for the millions of UK workers who regularly work through the night.

New analysis published by the TUC today shows that the number of people who work night shifts has increased by 151,000 (5%) since 2013 to reach more than 3 million (3,138,000). Britain’s night workers now account for one in nine (11.5%) employees.

Women

Women accounted for two-thirds (66.8%) of the increase, with 101,000 more women working at night than five years ago. While male night workers still outnumber women night workers (1,891,000 compared to 1,247,000), the growing employment in health and social care is a key reason behind more women working night shifts. 

Gender split

The two most common professions for female night workers are carework and nursing, which together account for 561,000 women employees working at night. The number of men working at night has been boosted by an extra 259,000 road transport drivers and 17,000 social care assistants.

Over 50s

The number of night workers over 50 has risen by 114.5%. Most night workers are aged between 30 and 49 (1,393,000) but increased employment in social care and the trend towards working past 65 have spread the age profile of night working. There are now 674,000 people aged 50-59 working at night (an increase of 94.8% in the last five years), while the current total of 197,000 night workers aged 60 plus is a 392.7% increase on 2013.

Retail, transport and health and social services

Three industries account for most of the increase in night working in the past 5 years. Wholesale and retail, transport and distribution and health and social care has added 136,000 extra night workers between them.

Regional night working

The biggest increase in night working has been in the West Midlands (+49,000), followed by the East of England (+48,000) and the East Midlands (+28,000). However, night working in Scotland has declined sharply (-55,000) and also fell in the South East (-21,000).

The South East and London still tie for the highest number of night workers (378,000 each) even though they also have the lowest percentage of employees working nights (9.9% each). The highest percentage is still found in the North East (14.9% of employees), followed by Wales (14.2%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (13.1%).

Commenting on the analysis, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Tonight, most of us can look forward to an extra hour in bed. But as we sleep, millions of workers will be busy keeping the UK ticking over.

“Whether its nurses looking after patients or taxi drivers getting people home safely, we all depend on Britain’s army of night-workers.

“Night work is hard and can disrupt family life. So, we should show our appreciation for the sacrifices night workers make by ensuring they have good rights and protections at work.

“Employers must play fair and play safe, or public safety will be put at risk and the families of night workers will suffer.”

Editors note

- The health work-life balance impacts of night-working: The negative health impacts of night work are already well-documented and include heightened risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression. However, less attention has been given to the impacts on home life and relationships. The TUC wants the night economy to thrive but demands that employers must properly consider and address its impact on staff. Decisions to extend night working should always involve talks with unions.
- Fairness and safety for night-workers: The TUC recommends that:

  • Government should tighten the rules on night working. Workers should be able to enforce their rights at Employment Tribunal.
  • 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 rotas, so that they can ensure that the shifts they work are best suited to their individual circumstances.
  • Government should legislate to ensure that workers always have sufficient notice of their shift patterns, so they can make arrangements well in advance. Changes at short notice should be compensated.
  • Pay for those working nights should properly reflect the likely additional costs of childcare and inconvenience that night shifts can entail.

Figures all from the Labour Force Survey (April-June quarters)

Increase in male and female night working

Sex

2013 (thousands)

2018

(thousands)

Growth 2013-2018

(thousands)

% change 2013-2018

% of all employee working nights 2018

Men 

1,841

1,891

+50

2.7%

 14.6

Women

1,146

1,247

+101

8.8%

 9.2

Total

2,987

3,138

+151

5.1%

 11.5

Night working by region/nation

Region/nation

2013 (thousands)

2018 (thousands)

Growth 2013-2018

(thousands)

% change 2013-2018

% of all employees working nights 2018

North East

144

154

+10

+6.9

 14.9

North West

324

342

+18

+5.6

 11.5

Yorkshire and Humberside

278

290

+12

+4.3

 13.1

East Midlands

214

235

+21

+9.8

 12.1

West Midlands

246

295

+49

+19.9

 12.5

East of England

250

298

+48

+19.2

 11.4

London

350

378

+28

+8.0

 9.9

South East

399

378

-21

-5.3

 9.9

South West

232

256

+24

+10.3

 11.2

Wales

159

176

+17

+10.7

 14.2

Scotland

313

258

-55

-17.6

 11.0

Northern Ireland

79

88

+9

+11.4

 12.3

Total 

2,987

3,138

+151

+5.1

 11.5

Occupations: Top 10 most common occupations for male night workers

Rank 2013

Profession

Number (thousands)

Rank 2018

Profession

Number (thousands)

1

Protective services (police, fire and prison services)

153

1

Road transport drivers (HGV, vans, buses, taxis)

140

2

Service workers (porters, bar staff, waiting staff, catering assistants)

122

2

Protective services (police, fire and prison services)

123

3

Road transport drivers (HGV, vans, buses, taxis)

111

3

Security guards

95

4

Security guards

99

4

Care workers (care assistants, home care workers etc.)

92

5

Process operatives (packers, bottlers, canners, fillers)

82

5

Service workers (porters, bar staff, waiting staff, catering assistants)

86

6

Care workers (care assistants, home care workers etc.)

76

6

Warehouse workers

75

7

Warehouse workers

74

7

Process operatives (packers, bottlers, canners, fillers)

69

8

Retail sales assistants

47

8

Metal machining, metal fitting and Instrument makers

53

9

Mobile transport workers (rail, tram, maritime and air crew)

47

9

Health professionals

53

10

Metal machining, metal fitting and Instrument makers

47

10

Electrical trades

49

Occupations: Top 10 most common occupations for female night workers

Rank 2013

Profession

Number

Rank 2018

Profession

Number

1

Careworkers (care assistants, home care workers etc.)

309

1

Careworkers (care assistants, home care workers etc.)

340

2

Nurses and midwives

222

2

Nurses and midwives

220

3

Service workers (porters, bar staff, waiting staff, catering assistants)

95

3

Service workers (porters, bar staff, waiting staff, catering assistants)

94

4

Sales assistants

43

4

Health professionals

45

5

Health professionals

43

5

Teachers

43

6

Protective services

35

6

Protective services (police, fire and prison services)

42

7

Teachers

33

7

Sales assistants

42

8

Customer services assistants

29

8

Customer service assistants

36

9

Leisure and travel services

22

9

Leisure and travel services

32

10

Welfare and housing professionals

17

10

Cleaners

22

- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 49 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.