If you work night shifts, it’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities.
More and more employees in the UK are working night shifts. The ever-changing business landscape and the needs of a 24-hour economy have led to a boom in unsociable hours working.
For many, night shift work suits their needs. For others, it is something they endure for extra money.
What exactly is a night shift?
A night shift is any working shift pattern where at least 3 of the hours worked take place between 11 pm and 6 am. We often refer to nighttime work as ‘unsociable’ as it requires workers to perform tasks when they would otherwise be asleep.
Many businesses rely on night shift workers to function. These include hospitals, emergency services, and some factories and offices.
Can I get paid more for working a night shift?
Not necessarily. There is no legal requirement for an employer to increase pay for night shift work. All night shift workers are entitled to the national minimum wage, but this is at the standard rate.
If you sign up to working night shifts as part of your contract, it is unlikely to be at a higher rate of pay. Unless the contract specifies this is the case.
Most businesses, however, will offer incentives to employees who work in the evenings. They will do this to ensure they can cover shifts. This extra payment may come as an increase in the hourly rate or as an additional bonus.
What laws govern night shift work?
The standard maximum weekly working hours rule applies to night shift work. This means that unless an employee elects otherwise, the maximum number of hours they can work in a week is 48.
On top of this, there are additional rules for night shifts. The law states that night workers should not work more than an average of eight hours in any 24-hour period. The average is calculated over a period of seventeen weeks. If both the employee and employer agree, they can extend this period up to 52 weeks.
The rules are slightly different for those under the age of eighteen. No person of sixteen or seventeen years of age may work between the hours of midnight and 4 am. In some rare cases, it is possible to relax this rule. Our advice is to check with the authorities before doing so.
Are there any exceptions to these laws for working night shifts?
Yes, there are. Some professions are exempt from rules governing nighttime work. These include:
- The police, armed forces, and emergency services.
- Domestic staff (e.g., butlers and servants) employed in a private household.
- Positions that allow people to choose the time they work (e.g. freelancers and company executives).
- Those working in the rail industry onboard trains.
On top of this, certain situations are exempt from the limit on the number of hours worked at night:
- Those working in emergency situations.
- Those who work in jobs requiring round-the-clock staff, like a hospital.
- Those who work in an industry whose peak working hours are in the evening, for example, agriculture, security, and surveillance-based jobs.