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Working At Night

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 29 Jun 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Night Shift Night Workers Night Work

There are certain regulations that apply to employees who work at night. These apply to all employees be they permanent members of staff or casual workers.

The regulations define night time as the period between 23.00 and 06.00 although this agreement can be slightly varied between employers and workers. A 'night worker' is classed as someone who works for at least 3 hours during this period.

Generally, night workers:

  • Should not work more than 8 hours in any 24 hour period, averaged over 17 weeks
  • 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
  • Must be offered a free health assessment before they begin night work duties and on a regular basis after that
For some workers - those Working with Hazards or under mental or physical strain - there can be no averaging at all - the 8 hour limit must be strictly adhered to.

In general, workers under 18 are not permitted to work nights, although there are quite a number of exceptions to this rule and you can find out more from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

It is an employer's duty to comply with the night work regulations. They should keep records to ensure workers do not exceed their night working limit along with records of their employees' health assessments for 2 years or, if they didn't take up that offer, you should record the date the offer was made.

How to Adapt to Working at Night

A human's body clock was designed to be awake during daylight hours and to sleep at night and many night workers have experienced difficulty in adapting to the changes in working at night and sleeping during the day. There are no clear solutions to this problem but some good tips include:
  • Adapting to your new time frame as quickly as possible by timing meals and other activities to match the new 'day'.
  • Exercise can often sort out body rhythms. You could try starting your new 'day' with a brisk jog or by cycling. This may mean doing your exercise at 10 o'clock at night when most people are start thinking about getting ready to go to bed but it has proven to have been beneficial for many night shift workers.
  • Although not always possible, studies have shown that a short nap in the middle of a night shift can help maintain or improve performance later on in the shift. Perhaps, you could consider this during your longest rest break within your shift.
  • One of the most common complaints about adjusting to night shift work is the difficulty some people find in sleeping during the day. It is just as important to try and create the same relaxing environment as you would normally do if you were sleeping at night. Your room should be well ventilated and not too hot. It should be as quiet as it would be at night so if you have a family, they should consider your needs sympathetically. If need be, you should install black-out window blinds so that your bedroom is as dark as possible and consider ear plugs and sleeping masks for your eyes, such as those you might get offered on a plane.
  • When eating on the night shift, choose smaller portions rather than a heavier meal which can make you feel tired and sluggish and can sometimes cause heartburn and try to avoid late night caffeine as this can have an adverse effect when you get home in the morning and are trying to get to sleep.

It can often be extremely difficult to survive the night shift, especially if you work day shifts too and have to switch between the two on your rota and working nights can have a big impact on your health, both physically and emotionally. However, if you can adopt a routine, still get enough quality sleep, eat the right foods, maintain social ties, and keep physically active - most people find that they can usually adapt well to working the 'graveyard' shift.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
M - Your Question:
I work 50 hours a week night shift and my employer is saying I have to attend meetings in the middle of the day at 3pm. I finish work at 0730-45 and don't get home until 9am, sleep by 10am. To attend the meeting I have to get up at 13.30 to get there and still have to do my shift that night. Help.

Our Response:
If it's just a one-off meeting, you might be expected to attend. If the meetings are frequent, it's unreasonable and you should raise a complaint with your employer.
SafeWorkers - 30-Jun-17 @ 10:36 AM
I work 50 hours a week night shift and my employer is saying I have to attend meetings in the middle of the day at 3pm. I finish work at 0730-45 and don't get home until 9am, sleep by 10am. To attend the meeting I have to get up at 13.30 to get there and still have to do my shift that night.Help.
M - 29-Jun-17 @ 3:40 AM
Working nights is not suitable fir everyone. I usually work between 12 hour nights and 17 hour double shifts. Some weeks might only gave 4 nights and some weeks might have 6 17 hour shifts. Sometimes people who work days cover a night, but go home and sleep. When working permenent nights it is not unusual to get insomnia. Dont work nights if you are a person who needs a lot of sleep. I usually dont sleep more than about 4 hours a day. I work with people who can sleep up to 6 hours but not often. Dont work nights unless you can stay awake. If you are doubtful, dont give up your day job.
Bobo - 16-Jun-17 @ 9:28 PM
Sinders - Your Question:
Hi I work 12 hour night shifts and have been told by my employer that I cannot sleep on my one hour break. Are they within their rights or not please advise.

Our Response:
This depends on your contractual arrangements. Many organisations require you to be available for emergencies etc during a break especially on a night shift.
SafeWorkers - 13-Jun-17 @ 1:57 PM
Hi i work 12 hour night shifts and have been told by my employer that I cannot sleep on my one hour break. Are they within their rights or not please advise.
Sinders - 11-Jun-17 @ 3:13 AM
Titch - Your Question:
Hi my ex partner tells me he works 6-7 hrs nightshifts everyday so he can't keep his son. He does not have day off is this legal?

Our Response:
In genera; night workers must not work more than an average of 8 hours in a 24-hour period but this is calculated as an average over a 17 week period (this can be a longer period of up to 52 weeks if workers agree). Workers also have a right to an uninterrupted 24 hours without any work each week or an uninterrupted 48 hours without any work each fortnight. This can change from week to week and there are exceptions to these rules for some types of job, see here
SafeWorkers - 22-May-17 @ 2:14 PM
Hi my ex partner tells me he works 6-7 hrs nightshifts everyday so he can't keep his son. He does not have day off is this legal?
Titch - 22-May-17 @ 8:18 AM
Hi, my mum is 64 and works in a care home. She also has another job during the week as a midday supervisor. She is constantly asked from her care home job to work multiple nights shifts on a row usually 9pm - 7am but sometimes a few hours more either side. This week she's been asked to work 7 night shifts in a row. That's 70 hours minimum. She agreed because she feels bad saying no and letting them down. Can I complain about this? Where do I stand?
Chloe - 20-May-17 @ 10:03 AM
Donna - Your Question:
Hi,I work in a residential care home with 21 residents, most of the residents have dementia.I do 12 hour night shifts and my boss has put me in with a new starter, who has only had 4 days induction, not nights just days.I thought that the new starter should shadow a normal 2 nightstaff for a couple of shifts, before they were put on alone. Can you advise please.Many thanks

Our Response:
There are no specific rules about this in employment law. You should check your employer's policy or the CQC
SafeWorkers - 19-May-17 @ 9:23 AM
Hi I work in a care home and work 3 to 4 12 hour shifts per week I used to do this as blocks of 3 to4 but now they have broken these days in to 1 on 1 offisthis leagle
Ray - 18-May-17 @ 4:53 PM
Hi, I work in a residential care home with 21 residents, most of the residents have dementia. I do 12 hour night shifts and my boss has put me in with a new starter, who has only had 4 days induction, not nights just days. I thought that the new starter should shadow a normal 2 nightstaff for a couple of shifts, before they were put on alone. Can you advise please. Many thanks
Donna - 18-May-17 @ 1:10 AM
Dee - Your Question:
Hi can you be forced to work a Friday night? I'm currently on salary and not always working nights my weeks are mixed. If I was to work a Friday night would that be classed as overtime as it rolls in to the weekend?

Our Response:
No, that depends purely on your contract.
SafeWorkers - 12-May-17 @ 12:36 PM
Hi can you be forced to work a Friday night? I'm currently on salary and not always working nights my weeks are mixed. If I was to work a Friday night would that be classed as overtime as it rolls in to the weekend?
Dee - 11-May-17 @ 8:25 AM
I have recently started work in a residential home with 6 residents, all with high learning disabilities, some with high level autism and challenging behaviour. I am a waking night suppport worker and I work from 10pm to 7:30am. The waking night is employed specifically to look after one resident as their local authority pays for him to have a waking night support worker. Before he cane to the house they used to only have two sleep in staff. I work alone and have one sleep in staff to call on if I need them. Now most of the time I am dealing with one resident who makes me feel very uncomfortable and displays very challenging behaviour. It depresses me to go to work specifically because I am basically alone dealing with this resident when really i'm supposed to be there for the other resident who's local authority has paid for me to be there. I wanted to ask is it legal for me to be working alone at night with 6 residents? Even though there is a sleeping in member of staff I don't feel safe or comfortable. Sometimes it can get to 6am and I would have 3 residents to deal with. Am I within my rights to ask to not be alone and have another waking night staff member working alongside me?
Abs - 26-Apr-17 @ 6:56 PM
Paulie - Your Question:
Hi just wanted to know if this is legal I work night shifts for the last 2yrs the shifts have been 5 weeks of 7pm - 6am and 3 weeks 9pm - 6pm rotating. i.e. 5 nights on 3 days off now with out saying a thing we do 4 weeks of 7pm - 6am and 3 weeks of 9pm - 6am 5 nights on 3 days of have they been breaking the law and noticed and change it they are now saying we have new contracts to sign pls help with advise

Our Response:
What does your current contract say? Are you being asked to work more/fewer hours? etc. Sorry we don't have enough information here to comment further.
SafeWorkers - 4-Apr-17 @ 10:16 AM
Hi just wanted to know if this is legal I work night shifts for the last 2yrs the shiftshave been 5 weeks of 7pm - 6am and 3 weeks 9pm - 6pm rotating. i.e. 5 nights on 3 days off now with out saying a thing we do 4 weeks of 7pm - 6amand 3 weeks of 9pm - 6am 5 nights on 3 days of have they been breaking the law and noticed and change it they are now saying we have new contracts to sign pls help with advise
Paulie - 3-Apr-17 @ 4:53 AM
i was given nights sunday to wednesday and then thursday off before my operation on the friday.on the sunday before my manager called me and text me if i could work the thursday too as she was struggling with finding someone to cover the shift and said she would not ask unless she was desperate.i reminded her that i was having an operation incase she had forgotten.She said she was well aware but was desperate.I agreed to work on the basis i could stay overnight as the hospital and ward i had my op is the same that i work at.i mentioned in the messages my wish too but she chose to ignore.even colleagues that heard this were appalled when they heard i was working the night as it was a very busy night ahead of me.to make matters i was incharge and worked with a non regular member of staff.Ifeel i should voice my upset as i had to be admitted litterally 2 hours after my shift for my op.i didnt get to rest before i had to go.because i was booked as a day case she said i had to go home .i told her i was extremely tired and have young kids as my reasons for wanting to just stay over and rest before i go home..is this fair what she did.if it was anyone else she would have agreed.im very flexible always when it comes my hours at work and feel she has taken advantage of me being too nice.can i take thisfurther who do i voice it to.
nhito - 1-Apr-17 @ 8:25 AM
Chezza - Your Question:
Hi can anyone help I worked a 12 hour night shift last Tuesday which is none sleeping without a rest period in a care home.what are the rules when it comes to finishing a night shift at 8am on he wednesday then having a training course at 10am the same day. my manager has said I will be taken off the rota intil I have self funded the training course I missed due to being absolutely exhausted and having my child off school with a sickness bug??? Am I entitled to the 11 hour rest break before any training is attended??

Our Response:
You're correct that night workers can't work more than an average of 8 hours in a 24-hour period but this is calculated as anaverage over a 17 week period (sometimes longer ..up to 52 weeks). So as long as you were allowed sufficient rest periods as an average over 17 weeks, you might not be able to do much. If your child was ill, however, your employer should make allowances for this.
SafeWorkers - 28-Mar-17 @ 10:56 AM
Hi can anyone help I worked a 12 hour night shift last Tuesday which is none sleeping without a rest period in a care home....what are the rules when it comes to finishing a night shift at 8am on he wednesday then having a training course at 10am the same day... my manager has said I will be taken off the rota intil I have self funded the training course I missed due to being absolutely exhausted and having my child off school with a sickness bug??? Am I entitled to the 11 hour rest break before any training is attended??
Chezza - 26-Mar-17 @ 5:59 PM
If you're on your 3rd week of nights and you've been Rota'd in for 8 continual days of 10 hour night shifts without a break in between - is this legal?
Lola - 5-Mar-17 @ 8:56 AM
By law, when does a sleep in become a waking night. We have just had a resident come home on palative care, this guy is currently getting the sleeping staff up 7+ times a night. My employer wants to pay a sleep in rate plus the minimum wage for the time up which is on average 15mins a time. Does this not class as a waking night being got up this much.
Beck - 2-Mar-17 @ 11:07 PM
Hi I work as a care assistant on nights doing 12 hour shifts at a 36 hour a week contract Can My manger add on extra shifts within that week with 24hrs notice and make me do the over time without notifying me first
Mel - 2-Mar-17 @ 11:01 AM
RTS - Your Question:
Hi,I'm working as a hotel night porter 10 hours per night. Can I sleep during my 20-30 minutes break?

Our Response:
This will depend on your company policy really. In general there is nothing to prevent this.
SafeWorkers - 1-Mar-17 @ 2:36 PM
Just finished 4 weeks night shifts of 7.30pm to 8am. I am owed 5 days holiday. I finished my night shift on Monday morning at 8.30am and taking my days off owed. Just wanted to know if the days off owed to me, start from the Tuesday and don't include the monday?
Nightworker - 28-Feb-17 @ 6:01 PM
Hi, I'm working as a hotel night porter 10 hours per night. Can I sleep during my 20-30 minutes break?
RTS - 28-Feb-17 @ 1:18 AM
She'll - Your Question:
Hi all in need off advice. I work 16hr waking night shifts I start at 17.00hrs and finish at 9am the next day. I am currently on 7.20ph and I want to know where company stands about doing these sort of shifts. Thanks

Our Response:
Night workers must not work more than an average of 8 hours in a 24-hour period but this is calculated as an average over a 17 week period (it can be up to 52 weeks if you agree). You should receive the National Minimum Wage as night worker...there is no higher night working rate applicable unless it's your employer's policy to offer one.
SafeWorkers - 27-Feb-17 @ 10:33 AM
Hi all in need off advice... I work 16hr waking night shifts I start at 17.00hrs and finish at 9am the next day.. I am currently on 7.20ph and I want to know where company stands about doing these sort of shifts. Thanks
She'll - 24-Feb-17 @ 6:21 AM
Thomas - Your Question:
I work nights regular (sleep ins)i work 6 hrs on a higher rate as im working then on min wage when sleeping but when I get paid at end of month they work all my hrs on min wage also if I work days instead of getting paid the higher rate they just pay me min wage is this right.

Our Response:
If your contract says you should be paid a higher rate when on nights, then your employer is in breach of contract if they do not pay you as such. As for the daytime rates, what does your contract say the pay is for days?
SafeWorkers - 22-Feb-17 @ 12:36 PM
I work nights regular (sleep ins)i work 6 hrs on a higher rate as im working then on min wage when sleeping but when i get paid at end of month they work all my hrs on min wage also if i work days instead of getting paid the higher rate they just pay me min wage is this right.
Thomas - 19-Feb-17 @ 9:31 PM
Mathie - Your Question:
I worked Thursday and Friday night shift, 12hr shifts and finished Saturday morning at 8am. Is it right for me to have to return for a full day shift on the sunday

Our Response:
Yes. Work out your average break times over a 17 week period. See comments to responses below.
SafeWorkers - 13-Feb-17 @ 2:23 PM
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