Number working night shifts rises, boosted mainly by women

a care worker bandaging an elderly man's arm


The number of people who work night shifts has increased by nine per cent since 2011, with women accounting for 69% of the growth in figures, according to new statistics published by the TUC.

It shows 275,000 worked the night shift in 2011, compared to 3,135,000 in 2016, accounting for 12% of Britain’s employees.

In 2016 one in seven male employees (14%) were night-workers, compared to one in 11 (9%) female employees. However, the TUC says women account for more than two-thirds (69%) of the growth in night-working over the past five years. Between 2011 and 2016 the number of women regularly doing night work increased by 190,000, while for men it increased by 86,000.

The TUC says there is a clear gender split in the kind of jobs male and female night-workers do.

The two most common professions for female night-workers are care-working and nursing. The number of women doing night shifts in these professions increased by 15% and 4% respectively over the past five years.

Male night workers are most likely to work in protective service occupations (military, security, policing) and road transport, says the TUC. However, the number of men doing night shifts in these professions fell by 26% and 12% respectively over the past five years.

More than 80,000 workers aged 16-20 regularly work nights. And there are nearly 150,000 people still working night shifts in their sixties. However, the age group with the highest proportion of night-workers is 45-49. They account for one in eight of those who usually work nights, says the TUC.

Male night-workers are most likely to be aged between 45–49. However, the most common age group for women night-workers is 25–29.

London has seen the largest growth in night-workers over the past five years (+98,000), followed by the South West (+50,000) and Wales (+40,000), according to the figures.

The TUC says the introduction of the Night Tube in London, and proposals for a seven-day NHS, are likely to lead to further increases in night work in coming years.

However, across all parts of the UK night-working has increased fastest in Northern Ireland (+58%), followed by London (+30%) and Wales (+29%), says the TUC.

The TUC says it does not oppose night-working, but argues that employers must properly consider and address its impact on staff. It says employers and unions should ensure that night-working is only introduced where necessary and that where night working is introduced into a workplace, no existing workers should be forced to work nights.

It also states that shift patterns should be negotiated between unions and employers, with workers having some element of control over their rotas and given sufficient notice of their shift patterns so they can make arrangements well in advance. It states that changes at short notice should be avoided and it adds that the remuneration paid to those working nights should properly reflect the likely additional costs of childcare and inconvenience that night shifts can entail.

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