What do we mean by ‘night work’?
It is commonly recognised that a night worker would be someone who works at least three hours during the ‘night-time’ period – on a regular basis. UK night working hours run from 11 pm to 6 am for the standard night period. Exceptions apply if workers and employers agree a different period for ‘night-time’. Even so, any changed period must be at least seven hours long and it must include midnight to 5 am. Employers and their employees must agree to any changes in the night period in writing.
In general, the following should apply for night workers:
- Night workers should not work more than 8 hours in any 24-hour period, averaged over 17 weeks.
- They cannot opt-out of 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.
- Night workers must be offered a free health assessment before they begin night work duties and on a regular basis after that.
It is an employer’s duty to comply with the night work regulations and keep records to ensure workers do not exceed their night working limit. This is in addition to keeping records of their employees’ health assessments for 2 years or, if they didn’t take up that offer, the date the offer was made. Employers have a duty to take “reasonable steps” to ensure that night workers do not work more than an average of eight hours per day. If the work involves significant health and safety risks, there is an actual limit of no more than eight working hours allowed in any 24-hour period.
In some cases, night work is taken by an individual because they prefer it to working during the day. The quiet environment of the midnight hours is very satisfying for those who get tense and nervous in the hustle and bustle of a busy working day in the City. In addition to this, many night workers have enjoyed the sense of community shared with their fellow employees, finding that people tend to open up more and discuss deep meaningful conversations during the later hours. It is up to the individual to understand their own psyche and decide whether night work would benefit their social, mental and physical state.
In other cases, night work is just a part of the job that must be done. A police call handler in the West Midlands is expected to work 2-day time, 2-evening and 2-night shifts followed by 4 days off. Those that work in the profession concede that the importance of the job and the rewards it provides warrant the grueling schedule, plus the 4 days off provides plenty of opportunities to catch up on rest, socialise, and maintain other commitments. For those that work in bars and nightclubs, it goes without saying that working into the early hours of the morning is part of the job but the buzz and social nature of the work can outweight this and be perfect for the right person.
Night work can be taken to suit the lifestyle of certain individuals. Those with commitments during day light hours might opt for night work as it fits in with their routine. Some do it for the money – as discussed above there is no improved national minimum wage for night work – however, employers are often generous and provide incentives and bonuses for working between 11pm and 6am.
Are you able to Change an Employees Working Hours?
Businesses need to have staff working at relevant times to meet the demands of their business. These non-traditional working hours are to be expected by those working in some professions. However, this does not mean that you lose the rights of 9-5 workers. If an employee is looking to change their working hours or the employer has requested an employee work night shifts, it is vital to look through the contract of employment. This is because what times/days an employee has to work will depend on the contract. If the contract states that an employee must be available to work any time, they can be called upon to work on different days/hours than their usual work pattern. If an employee’s availability has changed, the employee should discuss this with their employer, and a new contract may need to be signed with this change reflected. It is always best to keep an open door policy so employees can discuss any issues they may have, particularly when child-care or other caring responsibilites need to be considered.
How has COVID-19 Affected Night Working?
Unfortunately, the Coronavirus and resulting regulations has had a detrimental impact on the economy through 2020. Jobs in the hospitality sector have suffered greatly, with bars, hotels and nightclubs all having to close their doors for extended periods of time and streamline their number of employees. And of course those working in hospitals have worked tirelessly to combat the Coronavirus on the front line, facing increased demand and working long hours through the night.
However, many night workers have seen little change in their work life because the workplace is emptier and more easily regulated during unsociable hours of the day.
Communication is Key
There is a danger that employees working at night time can sometimes feel distanced from the organisation as a whole. If they work solely at night, rather than having a mix of shifts and working times, they can miss out on the important day to day communication and interaction that makes an employee feel part of a community. This can lead to feelings of isolation, low engagement and an overall lack of understanding of what the organisation’s goals are and how their role fits within the business. It is more difficult to bring the culture and values of an organisation alive when people are working unsociable hours. Often working with only a small team around them and most without any leaders nearby for support. It is important to ensure extra effort is made to include night workers in any communications, and ensure they are invited to any events or social occasions. By asking a leader to make an appearance on the night shift and invite staff in person they can demonstrate their appreciation as well as share important information to employees first-hand. Additionally, when it comes to company events, it is worth thinking about what arrangements could be put in place to facilitate attendance, such as providing cover so night workers can attend.
- Ensure there is an employment contract in place to refer to.
- Conduct a health and risk assessment for all night workers
- Follow the strict COVID-19 guidelines.
- Monitor the hours worked by all night workers
- Have an open door policy for employees to raise issues or changes in circumstances
- Put thought into communication channels to ensure night workers still feel part of the team
If you would like to have a chat about any of the above information or have other queries that you need answering, why not book a FREE 15-minute call at a time convenient for you with either Kate or Hannah.