Night Shift Workers – UK Laws & Regulations For Night Workers

There are laws and regulations that apply to employees who work night shift. These apply to all employees whether they are permanent members of staff or casual workers on zero hour contracts.

Night shift work is regulated to protect workers.

Laws on Night Shift Hours in the UK

UK night working hours are between 11pm (23.00) and 6am (06.00), although this agreement can be slightly varied between employers and workers if all parties agree.

A ‘night worker’ is classed as someone who works for at least 3 hours during this period.

Night Shift Hours

There are special rules on how hours during the night are worked. Night shift hours are any hours worked during the night period.

This timeframe 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

Generally, night shift 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.

Rest Periods For Night Shift Workers

There are rules on rest periods between shifts for all workers. In general there should be:-

  • Minimum 11 hours rest between finishing work and starting the next night shift.
  • 24 hours rest in a 7 day period.
  • 48 hours rest in a 14 day period. This is usually taken as one block but can be 2 x 24 hour periods.

Our guide on how long you can work without a break has more detailed information on your right to rest.

Exceptions To Rest Period Rules

There can be some exceptions to rest period rules for night workers. For example, a switch from night shift to day shift might mean that it’s not possible to provide an 11 hour rest period.

Similarly, a variation in shift times might mean there is not enough time to give a rest period.

Employers should do their best to provide rest periods to workers. It is important to note that workers on zero hour contracts have the same rights as other workers to rest periods.

Minimum Age For Working Night Shift

Workers under the age of 18 are not permitted to work night shift hours.

The latest a worker under the age of 18 can work is 10pm. They also cannot start work before 6am. There are limited exceptions to this, but a night shift would never be permissible. Our guide on working hours for young workers details the laws on working hours for 16 & 17 year old employees.

Working Night Shift when Pregnant

There are also regulations covering pregnant workers working night shift. If a pregnant worker has a certificate from a midwife or GP stating that they are unable to work nights, then the employer must suspend her from night working duty for as long as required.

If there are no alternative shifts during the day, the worker should be suspended for as long as necessary on full pay.

However, a pregnant worker cannot be removed from night shift without medical evidence that it is necessary.

See Also: Working Unsociable Hours – a look at the health effects of working out of normal office hours, and employee rights.

Employers Duties & Night Worker Regulations

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.

Records of their employees’ health assessments should be kept for 2 years or, if they didn’t take up that offer, the date the offer was made should be recorded.

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. Many night workers have experienced difficulty in adapting to the changes in working at night and sleeping during the day.

Some good tips include:-

  • Timing meals and other activities to match the new ‘day’.
  • Exercise can often sort out body rhythms. Try starting your new ‘day’ with a brisk jog or by cycling. This may mean doing exercise at 10 o’clock at night, 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. You could try this during your longest rest break during your shift.
  • One of the most common complaints with night shift work is difficulty in sleeping during the day. It’s 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. This can make you feel tired and sluggish and can sometimes cause heartburn. Also 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.

Further Reading


Our FAQ’s for night workers will help you find the answers to commonly asked questions about this type of shift work.

How many night shifts can you do in a row?

Workers cannot do any more than an average of 6 x 8 hour night shifts in a week. This is calculated by average working hours over 17 weeks. UK law says workers cannot work more than an average of 8 hours on night shift in every 24 hours. Workers must also take off at least two days per fortnight. That means the average limit for night work is 48 hours per week. However, the way this limit is calculated means that you could work more than 6 x 8 hour night shifts in a row, so long as you got two days off per fortnight, and did not exceed 48 hours a week on nights averaged out over 17 weeks.

38 thoughts on “Night Shift Workers – UK Laws & Regulations For Night Workers

  1. Linda says:

    I have worked 25 hours on 2 nights shifts on Thursday & Friday so Saturday is my sleep day. I am expected to work on Monday & Tuesday 2x 12.5 hours, I’m tired from my nights, is this legal

  2. Karolina says:

    My husband works night shift and he is currently on sick leave. His sick leave finishes on the second night. He works 6pm to 6am. His manager told him to come at 00:01 because his sick finished at 23:59. Is he correct? As it feel he should come on the following day at 6pm.

  3. M K says:

    Hi, could anyone please help with the following questions
    1) I work for Primark, they only gives us 2 days off each week when working 7 nights, and both those days are not together, which means once I finish work I sleep all day until 6pm or 7pm, then my day off is spent wondering around my house all night, just to fall to sleep in the early hours of the following morning around 4-5 am, just to sleep another day when really this should be my day off, just to go back into work again to repeat the same process each week. Should it be once finishing your shift that 1st day is for sleep, then your 2 days off begin? So that you actually get two days off?

    2) Can large companies like Primark make you work 5 days straight on nights, then give you two days off, which really works out as one day off – if you include time needed to sleep and recover, or should it be 4 nights work and 3 days off, so that your first day off is for rest and sleep and then you have 2 days actual days off before going back into work.

  4. Fred Lawton says:


    Great article by the way.

    I worked a 4 on, 4 off. However when I applied for an internal role I was told that the interviews have to be carried out during my “free-time”. The last interview that I had was carried 5 hours after my last night shift. Am I allowed to come in within the “set time” since its within the 11 hours period. Along with that, in the case that “Interviews are a working meeting” should one be claiming overtime” since its outside thier set working time?

  5. Yvonne Bradbury says:

    If night shift overtime becomes available should it be offered to other night shift workers first before day shift take it

  6. To says:

    Hi! I’m new to the UK work laws and I would like to know if it’s legal to work 12 hours a day 7 days a week with changing day/night pattern (7 nights 3 days off/7 days 4 days off)if your company doesn’t have any other option for your position? Because website tells that you can’t work more than 48 hours weekly only in some special cases. And I don’t get the rules about changing patterns when you have day shifts following night shift so you are becoming a night worker and the other laws applies to you and your work time?

    Thank you.

  7. Jimbo says:

    I have been working 12 hr shifts in a children’s residential house i went in one m Night and i wasnt feeling very well, i fell asleep in a staff chair, not sure how long for, but it was reported.i work for a local authorities is this a sack offence

  8. Mandy says:

    I work 12hr night shifts I have a mandatory meeting at 1030 am when I work from 7pm to 7am then I am on again at 7pm to 7am I usually got to bed at 11am until 530pm which only gives me 61/2hrs going to the meeting will cut this in half I’m saying I won’t be safe to work as I do medication and need a clear head. Can they make me do this?

  9. Lizzie says:

    My manager wants me to stay at work on the morning I finish after doing 3 12 hr night shifts in a row to do mandatory training. I’ve explained I’m too tired and need to go home to rest. Is this allowed. I’ve offered to go in an hr early or for the manager to come in at 7am to train me but she says she won’t. Now I’m up on a discipline meeting because of this which I think is totally unfair.

  10. Pedro says:

    Hi , we work 19 days straight on a 6:00 – 14:00 then 12 hour days on the weekend then 14:00 – 22:00 for the week the do 12 hour nights that weekend then we do 22:00 till 6:00 but often forced to do 12 hour nights . We come off on that Saturday morning and expected back on the Monday at 6:00 ! Is that leagal ?????

  11. Rachid says:

    My job forced me to do night shifts when I explained to them that I had twice surgery on my goitre thyroid gland function and my blood test was positive but they put me to work night shift after that I had side effects like dizziness weakness, heart was beating faster and I hadn’t slept for the next 24 hours.

  12. Geordie67 says:

    I work a pattern of 5 x 12 hour night shifts (18:30-06:30) and regularly have to do an extra hour (at least once a week. I’m also a lone worker driving around a site. My job title is driver. I’ve asked if this is legal and have been told to suck it up and do as I’m told because “the law states an 8 hour break from the workplace”. I’ve also been refused health checks as I’m agency. I’ve been here nearly 18 months.

  13. san says:

    Do we have to attend training? I work 23:00 – 07:00 and I have been told that I must attend training at 2pm after a night shift, my colleague will be coming in for his shift that night.

  14. Irvin says:

    I work from 9pm to 5:30am. I have a mandatory meeting the next day at 1pm and that only gives me like 7 hours of sleep. Do I still have to show up to the meeting that will probably last like an hour and a half.

  15. Riley says:

    10 8 hour night shifts in a row, hotel. 11 till 7. My 4 days off over the 2 weeks were put at the opposite ends of the weeks. Do I have any right to complain? Seems like a long stretch.

  16. jules says:

    I am expected to do sleep in nights at a children’s home sleeping either in the dining room or the office, where I will be the only adult female sleeping caring for 4 children in the home. The home is employing a waking nights gentleman who doesn’t speak much English, who will be able to access all areas while I am asleep. This is making me feel very uncomfortable.

  17. MJ says:

    Useful info, thank you. Some of these comments are shocking! Know your rights, and speak to HR or the Citizens Advice Bureau. Your health and well-being come first, don’t let anyone bully you.

  18. Juls says:

    Can my employer make me sleep on a camp bed in the lounge of the care home I work for as there isn’t a second bedroom for staff to do sleep ins

  19. Fraser says:

    I work Monday till Friday on a Monday tue wed 9pm till 9am and on Thursday Friday 5 till 9pm so when I finish my shift on a Thursday morning at 9am i have to come back to work at 5pm till 9pm is that legal it doesn’t feel right

  20. rock says:

    looking at the 8 hrs working limit for night time shifts. If night time is 23.00 to 7.00 then you can’t work more than 8 hrs in 24 hr period. I work at a dock .very hard manual work and work 12hr shifts from 7pm to 7 am so I presume its how they get around the law

  21. Glyn says:

    I drive a truck 12 hours 10pm until 10am 5 days a week…. Sometimes I’m forced to stay on until noon, how come non of the night work regulations apply to me?

  22. Lisa says:

    My employer has removed the use of a staff flat for sleep-ins in a residential care home and advised we will he sleeping in the living room of the residents flat. Is this legal? What does an employer need to provide staff on a sleep in shift?

  23. Jen says:

    I’m a Support Worker I do sleep in’s I start work at 14:00 and finish at 09:00 but my mangers are saying that when I finish at 09:00 it is a day off. I have said to them it is not a day off because I’ve finished work at 09:00 and it is classed has a rest day I’m I right

  24. SupsrSteve says:

    I have worked 3 nights in a row. I work in a retail superstore. Should the employer pay me for any extra for unsociable hours after a specific time. I started my shifts at 8pm till 7am next day

  25. None says:

    work 10 hour waking nights ( 21.00 to 0700hrs) and have been tasked with the responsibility of finding someone to cover a shift by tomorrow morning ( someone phoned in sick at 23.30 hrs). If no one is available I have been told that I will have to stay till someone comes to cover the shift. Is this legal ??

  26. None says:

    I work 10 hour waking nights ( 21.00 to 0700hrs) and have been tasked with the responsibility of finding someone to cover a shift by tomorrow morning ( someone phoned in sick at 23.30 hrs). If no one is available I have been told that I will have to stay till someone comes to cover the shift. Is this legal ??

  27. Stacenellie says:

    I am working from 3pm till 1am 8 days in a row, is this acceptable? Im 19 so I am aloud to work past midnight but it is putting a physical strain on me.

  28. RL says:

    I work 2 days at weekend 9 till 6am and others work 5 days we have been banned from booking holiday from early Nov until mid Jan and also Easter. Are they allowed a 3 month ban on holidays esp for night workers

  29. Chari says:

    Hi, I’m working as night porter in a hotel 10 pm to 6.30 am.i have overloard heavy duties all my during the that legal?

  30. Colly says:

    So i work waking night shift and i was just wondering the once my shift has ended my employer wants me to then go and do a care call i do 19.00 till 07.00 is this right or is there some thing i can do about this

  31. AmIRight? says:

    Hi I have have my working shifts changed recently so now my working hours are 23.00-07.30. I was told at the start of working these shifts that I would have every Monday and Tuesday night off but after a couple of weeks of working these hours they have now started splitting my days off up, for example this week I am off Monday night and Friday night. Are there any working laws that state I should be having a certain amount of working hours off together now because having my days off split is a real struggle with regards to my sleeping

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