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Working At Night

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 13 Dec 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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[Add a Comment]
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
We finish nights at 7am in the morning , and the company then say we can come to work the following day at 7am saying the 24hrs we have off is classed as a rest day ?
Joner - 13-Nov-17 @ 6:34 PM
Jimmy - Your Question:
I work nights and am contracted to 36hours per week. I have never had my full entitlement of breaks and are required to start work at 9pm until 8am. This means, if I take off half an hour for breaks per shift I am working 55hours per week. 19hours of that is unpaid overtime. When questioning senior management they state that the contract says you are required to work additional hours on occasion. But this is every day, every week continuously. Please advise as this is killing me mentally!

Our Response:
If you employer is refusing to listen to you, you might be able to take this to an employment tribunal, your employer is in breach of contract and working time regs. ContactACAS for further advice on taking this further.
SafeWorkers - 8-Nov-17 @ 12:03 PM
I work nights and am contracted to 36hours per week. I have never had my full entitlement of breaks and are required to start work at 9pm until 8am. This means, if I take off half an hour for breaks per shift I am working 55hours per week. 19hours of that is unpaid overtime. When questioning senior management they state that the contract says you are required to work additional hours on occasion. But this is every day, every week continuously. Please advise as this is killing me mentally!
Jimmy - 7-Nov-17 @ 11:24 AM
Kirsty77 - Your Question:
Hi,Can you please clarify the overall legal rest break on a 12 hour night shift? I am a mobile patrol officer so drive a car to and from different sites etc. I always thought I was entitled to a 1 hour rest period yet one of my colleagues is saying im only entitled to a 40 minute break and that must be split. 20 mins here and another 20 mins there! Clarification would be much appreciated on this so I know where I stand many thanks

Our Response:
The rules are that you are entitled to one 20 minute break if you work for more than 6 hours, not necessarily a break for every 6 hours you work. If you are a driver for your job, different rules apply with regard to breaks, please see here
SafeWorkers - 3-Nov-17 @ 3:00 PM
Hi, Can you please clarify the overall legal rest break on a 12 hour night shift? I am a mobile patrol officer so drive a car to and from different sites etc.. I always thought I was entitled to a 1 hour rest period yet one of my colleagues is saying im only entitled to a 40 minute break and that must be split.. 20 mins here and another 20 mins there! Clarification would be much appreciated on this so I know where I stand many thanks
Kirsty77 - 2-Nov-17 @ 10:42 PM
I work 36 hours per week in a residential home + sleep ins which are paid at £32 per sleep in. When woken to attend an emergency, often exceeding 3 hours, I claim a waking night rather than a sleep in. I am paid 1/3 of my hourly rate for night hours worked. Surely this should be paid at time + 1/3, as these hours are in addition to my 36 hours?
Peep - 6-Oct-17 @ 4:38 PM
Iv been working nights 8 years 40 hours a week on a 4 week rota and there. Never askabout this offered a free health assessment iv never heard of this befor reading this we feel on night we are mushroom shift and we're just forgotten about no management come in and see us unless we have done something wrong and there never ask about awer wellbeing
Rjh - 17-Sep-17 @ 3:34 PM
Pinky - Your Question:
I've just started a new job,and the man who done the night shift,worked from 6pm until 11a.m is this legal?

Our Response:
This depends on what kind of job it is and whether they have sleeping/break arrangements etc
SafeWorkers - 15-Sep-17 @ 11:25 AM
I've just started a new job,and the man who done the night shift,worked from 6pm until 11a.m is this legal?
Pinky - 12-Sep-17 @ 7:08 PM
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
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