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Working At Night

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 2 Mar 2018 | 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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[Add a Comment]
Ali - Your Question:
Hi I work with clients with special needs.my employer has asked me to stay over night with two male clients who can be violent.The other carer refused to go along as normally it is two male carers.can I refuse to go as I will be alone and have no way to leave as dropped off.is this even legal thanks for any help

Our Response:
You will need to check whether a risk assessment has been carried out and what precautions have been put in place. Please see our Guide to Your Rights When Working Alone for more information.
SafeWorkers - 5-Mar-18 @ 2:44 PM
Big al - Your Question:
Hi I work for a international hotel chain as a night porter I walk to work , but it has been snowing heavily and the pavements are treacherous, plus I'm on blood thinning tablets so any slip or fall could be fatal ; but my employer insists I come in for my shift ,Do I have a choice or do I just run with it

Our Response:
Check your contract first of all, just to be sure there are no terms that might relate to this kind of instance. Talk to you doctor and get advice on whether the walk to work would genuinely be a risk to you. If you usually walk to work and other employees have made it in, it's difficult for you to simply refuse.
SafeWorkers - 5-Mar-18 @ 11:45 AM
Hi I work with clients with special needs.my employer has asked me to stay over night with two male clients who can be violent.The other carer refused to go along as normally it is two male carers.can I refuse to go as I will be alone and have no way to leave as dropped off.is this even legal thanksfor any help
Ali - 2-Mar-18 @ 6:41 PM
Hi I work for a international hotel chain as a night porterI walk to work , but it has been snowing heavily and the pavements are treacherous, plus I'm on blood thinning tablets so any slip or fall could be fatal ; but my employer insists I come in for my shift ,Do I have a choice or do I just run with it
Big al - 2-Mar-18 @ 9:16 AM
Hi I’m looking for advice regarding the maximum amount of nights you can work and nights off. I am made to work 6,7,8,9 and sometimes 10 nights in a row (9 hours a night) and will often just get 1 night off afterwards, then back to work the night after and then I get another night off after that. My problem is that this is taking a great toll on my health and it is very frustrating to see the rota and my colleagues will have a normal 5 nights on, 2 nights off together. How do I gauge the subject to try and get the same treatment. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Tiredallthetime - 28-Feb-18 @ 10:14 PM
We have a workforce/collective agreement to opt out of the 10 hour night shift limit. This agreement was reached by a majority vote of roughly half the workforce (some who do not even work Night Shifts!) How can a majority vote carry that is HARMFULL to the minority that didn’t vote to OPT OUT ?
Night Owl - 6-Feb-18 @ 4:42 PM
LaLa - Your Question:
This didn't come out as intended. It should read:I want to work a schedule which suits me and my employer but I just want to make sure the neither of us are breaking the law. I am a Personal Care Assistant.Sun 8am to 7pm, Mon 7 pm to 8am, Tues 7pm to 8am Wed off, Thurs 7pm to 8am, Fri 7pm to 8am Sat off.

Our Response:
This is a total of 63 hours per week which is higher than the maximum working week of 48 hours. You can however, choose to "opt out" of the working time regulations. Note also that you may have to work more than 48 hours a week on average if you work in a job where 24-hour staffing is required.
SafeWorkers - 6-Feb-18 @ 3:29 PM
This didn't come out as intended. It should read: I want to work a schedule which suits me and my employer but I just want to make sure the neither of us are breaking the law. I am a Personal Care Assistant. Sun 8am to 7pm, Mon 7 pm to8am, Tues 7pm to 8am Wed off, Thurs 7pm to 8am, Fri 7pm to 8am Sat off.
LaLa - 6-Feb-18 @ 11:26 AM
I want to work a schedule which suits me and my employer but I just want to make sure the neither of us are breaking the law. The schedule is: SunMon TueWedThursFri Sat 08:00 19:00 19:00 08:00 19:00 08:00Off 19:00 08:0019:00 08:00 Off
LaLa - 6-Feb-18 @ 11:20 AM
jaybry - Your Question:
I work 11.5 hour night shifts and 11.5 hour day shifts. 3 times a week. I am working Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Which is 8 hours into Monday morning (19.30-8.00). I am then expected to work 11.5 hours Tuesday 7.30-20.00. Is this legal? How many hours break should I be allowed switching from nights to days?

Our Response:
Sometimes the average is calculated over the a period of a few weeks. Please see these examples to help. If you are in doubt, contact ACAS for information.
SafeWorkers - 5-Feb-18 @ 10:43 AM
I work 11.5 hour night shifts and 11.5 hour day shifts. 3 times a week. I am working Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Which is 8 hours into Monday morning (19.30-8.00). I am then expected to work 11.5 hours Tuesday 7.30-20.00. Is this legal? How many hours break should I be allowed switching from nights to days?
jaybry - 2-Feb-18 @ 9:31 AM
I am a home carer for an elderly couple, another Home carer works 4 nights a week in a nursing home, 12 hr shifts , plus an hour 4 mornings a week with this elderly couple she now intends to do 3 nights for this couple which would be a total of 76 hrs a week, is this legal ? She is required to administer medication including controlled drugs. I am very concerned
Smurf - 24-Jan-18 @ 8:51 PM
Mel - Your Question:
Hi, my employer expects me to work night shifts nearly every other week. When working nights I am expected to work from 7pm to 6am, 5 nights a week. Is this legal? And if not what can I do about it?

Our Response:
You need to work out your average working time as it's usually calculated over 17 weeks, but it can be over a longer period of up to 52 weeks. In general night workers must not work more than an average of 8 hours in a 24-hour period. So it all depends your hours in the alternate working week.
SafeWorkers - 24-Jan-18 @ 12:55 PM
Hi, my employer expects me to work night shifts nearly every other week. When working nights i am expected to work from 7pm to 6am, 5 nights a week. Is this legal? And if not what can i do about it?
Mel - 23-Jan-18 @ 9:22 PM
I work as a nurse on a busy ward My shift starts at 8.10pm and ends at 7.45 am. I am entitled to 52 mins unpaid break during my shift. I and all the other staff members on duty take this 52 mins as 1 break and rest. Our breaks start at midnight and run to last break starting at 4 am. My managers are now telling me that we need to take 2 short breaks because of working time directive as the person who goes on break at midnight has to work from 1am without a break and staff member on 4am break has to work too long befote this. Surely they can still be afforded an unpaid 15 min comfort break. I work for a trust.As a night shift worker I rely on my 52 min nap . Where do i stand legally. I see there has been research carried out on the benefits of night workers having a nap at work. We could have taken our break in a comfortable room of the ward which was not in use at night. Managers now tell us we have to take our break in the designatedstaff room which has upright dinning room chairs which are very uncomfortable.
Meme - 22-Jan-18 @ 4:35 AM
chelseadaz - Your Question:
I am working 5 nights a week of 10 hours per night (16.30 till 02.30) Monday to Friday, and my employer wants me in on a sunday dayshift (8 till 3) is this acceptable?

Our Response:
This depends on what your contract says and whether you have opted out of the working time regulations.
SafeWorkers - 19-Jan-18 @ 1:01 PM
I am working 5 nights a week of 10 hours per night (16.30 till 02.30) Monday to Friday, and my employer wants me in on a sunday dayshift (8 till 3) is this acceptable?
chelseadaz - 16-Jan-18 @ 10:58 PM
Fee - Your Question:
So, I’ve just looked at my rota and I’m down to do 6 nights in a row. I have 2 children and I simply can’t manage more than 3 on. I expressed this and I’m told to put up with it. My coworker who is the other senior needs it off. Is this legal? These are 12 hour shifts. 8-8

Our Response:
An employer can give you any shifts if your contract allows for it. You have a right to make an application for flexible working hours - which your employer must give due consideration and a good business reason for refusing. See the section on Flexible working in our guide here.
SafeWorkers - 8-Jan-18 @ 2:26 PM
I work has a support worker on nights I start at ten and finish at 8 the bus I need to get is half hour walk away and next bus is ten past nine.I get in the house around 11 oclock then back up again at 6 for work.. They used to supply us with taxis for long distant . I would like to know is how much sleep and rest time are you suppose to have inbetween night shifts
Tired - 6-Jan-18 @ 5:18 PM
So, I’ve just looked at my rota and I’m down to do 6 nights in a row. I have 2 children and I simply can’t manage more than 3 on... I expressed this and I’m told to put up with it. My coworker who is the other senior needs it off. Is this legal? These are 12 hour shifts. 8-8
Fee - 5-Jan-18 @ 9:58 PM
Hi I am doing waking nights for a 1-1 in a residential home . I have to sit in the ladies room all night as she is at risks of falling out of bed. They have told me I have to turn the lights off and have her door opened which makes it very dark is this aloud
Steph - 1-Jan-18 @ 5:09 AM
Hi I work as a nurse on a busy ward My shift starts at 8.10pm and ends at 7.45 am. I am entitled to 52 mins unpaid break during my shift. I and all the other staff members on duty take this 52 mins as 1 break and rest. Our breaks start at midnight and run to last break starting at 4 am. My managers are now telling me that we need to take 2 short breaks because of working time directive as the person who goes on break at midnight has to work from 1am without a break. Surely they can still be afforded an unpaid 15 min comfort break. I work for a trust.As a night shift worker I rely on my 52 min nap . Where do i stand legally. I see there has been research carried out on the benefitsof night workers having a nap at work
Meme - 30-Dec-17 @ 5:45 PM
I work 3am-6am, 1:30-2:30pm then 4-6pm every day, I know it’s not many hours but it’s very draining and my sleep pattern is very difficult. Are these kind of hours allowed or can I refuse this pattern of work?
Bex - 21-Dec-17 @ 7:30 AM
Hi. I work night doing 9.30 hours and when doing training in the day. should I be given the night off before the trianing day and the night off the day I'm meant to be training. Because my employers are saying that I can take the two nights off but I will have to make up one off the nights.
J - 13-Dec-17 @ 2:00 AM
Shaz - Your Question:
Myself a team leader and my staff support workers all working nights 8pm to 8am in a Supported Living environment. We have illicit substance abusers on site and often their suppliers and muscle come looking for payment. We also have cctv cameras with which we can see all buildings to be discussed. Recently one of the s.users, a habitual liar accused 2 staff of sleeping on duty. We now all have to go outside in an unsafe environment and check outside buildings every hour. Sometimes as lone workers. We have 2 way radio's. We feel unsafe as strangers come on site (no fences) and walking outside on slippery paths and steps in the ice and snow. What are our rights ? This is not in our job descriptions and if we fall or are attacked or get ill, the company does not pay. please advise. Thanks

Our Response:
If you feel that you are being asked to do something that is unsafe, you should raise a grievance with your emlployer. There are no "rights" as such apart from that your employer has a duty of care towards employees. A risk assessment should have highlighted any risks and any risk reduction measure should have been put in place. Your employer may say that 2 way radios and CCTV are sufficient.
SafeWorkers - 11-Dec-17 @ 10:51 AM
Myself a team leader and my staff support workers all working nights 8pm to 8am in a Supported Living environment. We have illicit substance abusers on site and often their suppliers and muscle come looking for payment. We also have cctv cameras with which we can see all buildings to be discussed. Recently one of the s.users, a habitual liar accused 2 staff of sleeping on duty. We now all have to go outside in an unsafe environment and check outside buildings every hour. Sometimes as lone workers. We have 2 way radio's. We feel unsafe as strangers come on site (no fences) and walking outside on slippery paths and steps in the ice and snow. What are our rights ? This is not in our job descriptions and if we fall or are attacked or get ill, the company does not pay..... please advise. Thanks
Shaz - 10-Dec-17 @ 12:38 AM
BigL - Your Question:
I am a night nurse contracted to 48 hours a week. My rota is always one on one off , two on one off three on one off etc there is never two nights off in a row and I’m so tired it’s making me feel ill plus I’m expected to have one night off come in in the morning at 11.30 for a meeting , go home and come back for the night shift ! Please advise. Am I entitled to two shifts off now and again. Kind Regards A very tired nurse

Our Response:
in general night workers shouldn't work more than an average of 8 hours in a 24-hour period. This average is calculated over 17 weeks, but it can be over a longer period if a collective agreement is in place. Night working limits don't usually apply where round the clock staffing is needed, such as in hospitals.
SafeWorkers - 6-Dec-17 @ 9:55 AM
I am a night nurse contracted to 48 hours a week . My rota is always one on one off , two on one off three on one off etc there is never two nights off in a rowand I’m so tired it’s making me feel ill plus I’m expected to have one night off come in in the morning at 11.30 for a meeting , go home and come back for the night shift ! Please advise . Am I entitled to two shifts off now and again . Kind Regards A very tirednurse
BigL - 5-Dec-17 @ 3:10 AM
zo - Your Question:
I wish to adjust my night hours. Currently contracted to 37.5 a week over 5 nights. I wish to work the Sunday 4pm to 6am. Making this a 14 hour shift to then take the Thursday night off. I've been told this is illegal, but if I chose to do these hours is it not my decision as long as it doesn't affect my work?

Our Response:
We don't know which other nights you work, so it's difficult to comment but the rules are as follows (from the .gov page):
"Night workers must not work more than an average of 8 hours in a 24-hour period.
The average is usually calculated over 17 weeks, but it can be over a longer period of up to 52 weeks if the workers and the employer agree, eg by collective agreement.
Regular overtime is included in the average, but not occasional overtime.
Workers can’t opt out of the limit."
SafeWorkers - 15-Nov-17 @ 10:10 AM
I wish to adjust my night hours. Currently contracted to 37.5 a week over 5 nights.I wish to work the Sunday 4pm to 6am. Making this a 14 hour shift to then take the Thursday night off. I've been told this is illegal, but if I chose to do these hours is it not my decision as long as it doesn't affect my work?
zo - 14-Nov-17 @ 9:33 AM
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