Night working - rules, regulations, and how to make it work

There's a massive section of the workforce we don't often think about when talking company culture. Night-time workers are a hugely important part of our economy, and while some companies might never think about the overnight shift, others can't do without them.

If you run a business that employs night workers, you need to keep up to date with the latest regulations. Here's a quick summary of the main things that business owners and managers need to know, followed by our tips for treating your late-night labourers well.  

Night working legislation

Hours and limits

Night workers are defined as those who regularly work at least 3 hours between 11pm and 6am (with some exceptions). Some staff are also defined as night workers if there's a trade union agreement in place that confirms this.

Pay for night workers

All overnight workers must be paid at least National Minimum Wage, at the usual rate. There isn't a mandatory higher rate for working nights, although some businesses may choose to pay more (and we think you probably should).

Sleep-in shifts

There are specific rules for working out the number of hours that a worker must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage for a sleep-in shift. This will depend on whether they're expected to work for most of it, or to sleep.

Limits on night work hours

There are extra rules that apply to workers doing night shifts, which go above and beyond those set for maximum hours and rest breaks. For example, a night worker isn't allowed to work over an 8-hour average within a 24-hour period. This average figure is usually taken over 17 weeks. The average figure includes regular overtime, but not occasional overtime.

It's important to note that these limits are set by law, so workers can't choose to opt out of them.

Younger workers

Any employees aged 16 or 17 are unable, by law, to work between 12am and 4am. Typically, the law also prevents them from working shifts between 10pm and 6am, with exceptions for certain industries such as agriculture, retail, newspaper delivery, hospitals and hospitality.

Mental or physical strain

Any night shift workers who work in hazardous or stressful roles mustn't work more than 8 hours within any 24-hour period, and a risk assessment will need to be carried out first.

Records

As an employer, you need to keep records of the shifts that your night workers do for audit purposes. Keep these for at least 2 years.

Clauses and extra detail

The government provides further detail on the sub-clauses and extra detail of this legislation online at Gov.UK. It's worth using to review your employee's contracts if they're working nights, to ensure that you're in line with all current rules and regulations.

These regulations will probably change too once we leave the EU, so remember to stay up to date with employment law over the coming years.

Supporting overnight workers

Good employers always look to go above the legal minimums when it comes to looking after their workers. Here are some ways in which you can maintain a positive working culture for your workers of all shift patterns.

1. Offer regular health assessments - perhaps twice a year, so that your workers can flag up any concerns or issues.

2. Make sure your night workers get the same communications, updates and perks as your day workers, and involve them in things like Slack channels or Secret Santas. Even if they can't make it to events, invite them anyway so they don't feel left out.

3. Make sure some of your managers also work night shifts - so they understand what it's like and can spend time with the overnight team.

4. Invest in proper security for the office so that your night workers always feel safe.

5. Leave them the odd treat! Doughnuts, fruit, hot drinks... make them feel valued and supported, and find ways to show your appreciation for their work.

6. Consider offering enhanced benefits for health and wellbeing, as there are specific health risks to regular overnight work. So you might offer hotlines for mental health, free health checks, advice for better lifestyle choices, discounted gym memberships and so forth.

7. Invest in your night staff's career development as much as you would anyone else.

There are millions of night workers around the country, but they're sometimes forgotten when we think about how to treat staff properly. Hopefully the above will spark some thoughts in your organisation. Are you getting the best from your valuable night workers?