Nigh Shift Allowances & Penalties in UK

Only if set on your 'employment contract' one is eligible for night shift allowance. Employers do not have an obligation. Know your payment entitlement here.
  • Author: Siva
  • Last updated: October 27, 2022
  • 5 Minutes
night shift allowances and penalties in the UK explained by Papershift

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The modern workplace is a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week endeavour, and keeping staff and customers happy is a never-ending process. Because of this, many companies have been forced to open hours that are considered unsociable. But keeping staff happy when their shifts are in the evening or during the night can be an impossible task. This is where night shift payments come in to alleviate discontent.

Night shift allowances allow employers to reward staff who opt to work during unsociable hours. But understanding employee rights and offering the right remuneration can be tricky.

That’s why we’ve compiled this guide on night shift allowances and penalties. In it, we will discuss what a night shift allowance is, what the law says about it, as well as how you know if you are entitled to one.

Let’s begin

What is a night shift allowance?

A night shift allowance is an extra payment made to employees because of the shift patterns they work. Night shift allowances are given to employees for working during the evening or night. This isn’t the only type of shift allowance available, and some workers will receive extra payments for working weekends, mornings, or longer shifts.

What is a night shift penalty?

A night shift penalty (or night shift penalty rate) is a different term for a night shift allowance. It isn’t often used in the UK, but you may hear it in other countries around the world, like Australia, where employees often refer to extra payments for shift work with the term.

What is considered a night shift?

Night shift hours are any hours worked during the night period.

Night Shift Timeslots
This timeframe for night shift work runs between 11pm and 6pm. It is possible for workers to agree a different set of night working hours with their employer. However, the hours must span 7 hours and need to include the hours of 12am to 5am.

If you work more than 3 hours during night shift hours, you are deemed to be doing nightwork.

How are night shift allowances and penalties paid?

Employers can pay shift allowances in a variety of different ways, including:

  1. A flat fee paid on top of standard pay. This is often given to those who work night shifts constantly and are repeatedly eligible for a shift allowance.
  2. An increase to hourly rates. This method allows employers to reward those who work unsociable shifts on a less-than-regular schedule. More often than not, employees who are eligible for this type of payment will rotate shifts. 
  3. A percentage of their normal pay rate. This percentage may be set in stone or varied based on the number of unsociable hours worked or the needs of the business. Workers often refer to this type of payment as ‘double time’ or ‘time and a half’.
Featured Guide on Rota Allowances
Useful guide for all rota managers on all the shift and rota allowances possible.

What other types of shift allowance are there?

As mentioned previously, there are several shift allowances available to employees other than night shift allowances. These include:

  1. Shift rotation allowance. Some employers pay staff for rotating between mornings, afternoons, and evenings.
  2. Weekend allowance. Some businesses will pay staff extra for working on the weekends.
  3. Shift payments for working long or unusual shift patterns. Some employers will pay an additional payment for working long shifts. These shifts generally last for 12 hours or more. An employer may also pay extra for working unusual shift patterns like 4 on and 4 off.

What are the legal rules on night shift allowances and penalties?

The only legal requirement is that employers pay their employees the National Minimum Wage. This was first set out in The National Minimum Wage Act, 1998. There is no legal entitlement for employers to offer increased pay for working unsociable hours.

Employment Contract must have Shift Allowance
If an employer does pay a shift allowance, they must write the details into their employee’s contracts of employment. They must also ensure that they administer allowance schemes fairly for all staff, as set out in the Equality Act 2010.

Are there any other laws in respect to night shift work?

Yes, there are. Generally, the law states that night shift workers:

  1. Should not work more than 8 hours in any 24-hour period, averaged over 17 weeks.
  2. Cannot opt-out of from this limit unless it is allowed for by a collective workforce agreement, although in some cases you can average night work over a 26-week period.
  3. Must be offered a free health assessment before they begin night work duties and on a regular basis after that.

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How much can I expect to get as a night shift allowance?

That depends on the extent of the allowance being paid as well as the needs of the business. Night shift allowances vary from workplace to workplace. There are no legal statement setting out how much an employer pays for night shift allowances. The only requirement is that they treat each member of staff fairly.

Free Overtime Pay Calculator
On other circumstances, employers could use ‘Overtime Pay’ as a means of paying employees extend their work hours or working later at night. Use our free ‘Overtime pay calculator’ to prepare the payroll.

What about night shift allowance for those under 18?

The regulations for young workers are very different to adults and it is more difficult for them to be eligible for night shift allowance. Staff aged between 16 to 17 years of age cannot work between midnight and 4am. On top of this, they cannot work between 10pm and 6am in most workplaces, excluding:

  • Agricultural jobs.
  • Cultural, sporting, artistic or advertising activities.
  • Hospital work.
  • Hotel or catering work.
  • Retail work.
  • Post or newspaper delivery.

The law allows them to work at night in exceptional circumstances so long as there is no adult to do the work and they’re required to either:

  • Handle a sudden increase in demand
  • Maintain the continuity of a service or production, e.g., during the making of a film.

As an employer, do I have to pay a night shift allowance?

As mentioned previously, no you do not. Night shift allowances are optional payments. You do have to pay at least the National Minimum Wage to employees but have no legal obligation to pay more.

There may be, however, a necessity to pay additional payments for working nights to keep staff happy and working for the business. Any company that operates during unattractive times will find it hard to find and keep staff if they are not incentivized.

In conclusion

Working night shifts is seldom fun. But the addition of extra pay in the form of night shift allowances or penalties can soften the blow.

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We hope you’ve found our guide helpful. For more useful workplace information, take a look around our website.

Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams :-)