From the TUC

Top tips for introducing night shifts

05 Aug 2015, By

Last week I wrote a blog about the health effects of working shifts, in particular nights. Well today the TUC has followed up on that with a report on night working and “work-life balance”.

Given how much night working is increasing it is really important that people are protected and the effect on, not only there health, but also their lives, is reduced.

Now I know that some people enjoy working nights, but they are in a minority, and usually they have no dependants or they share child-care with a partner and this suits their arrangements, but for a lot of people, as this report shows, it can really mess with your relationships, with your social life and, of course, your health.

I have argued in the past for better guidance on how shift patterns should be structured to protect people from the long-term effects of shift work, but how do you help protect peoples work-life balance?

Well here are a few tips that you might find useful. The evidence for them is in the TUC report.

  • Ensure that the union is consulted before new shift patterns are agreed. New patterns should be subject to a trial period with a review at the end with further consultation.
  • Some people prefer permanent night shifts, and preference should be given to them. Employing people who elect to work regular nights limits the total number of people exposed to the adverse effects of night work, also working nights-only is preferable to the body in comparison to changing shifts.
  • Most people prefer shift systems that maximise the number of weekends off. People may also prefer longer hours over fewer days. Avoid split shifts or rapidly rotating shifts that are difficult to adapt to physically.
  • Shift patters should be predictable and staff should know which shift they will be working well in advance. This is particularly important for those with caring responsibilities. Management should not expect staff to change shifts or work extra shifts at short notice.
  • Make sure that additional payments reflect both the inconvenience of working irregular hours, but also the additional costs that that can be involved.
  • Regular rest and meal breaks are important on any shift but especially on night and early morning shifts. Good employers will make sure that night workers have access to proper, healthy food, and, at the very least, access to the same facilities as day workers.
  • Make sure that safe travel arrangements are in place for workers travelling to and from work late at night or early in the morning.
  • All night workers should be given information about the possible health risks of night work and how they can be reduced. In addition all night workers must have their health monitored through regular health assessments.