The working hours of night workers are regulated by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. It is important to be clear about what is meant by night work and night worker. Night work means work done in the period between midnight and 7am. A night worker is an employee who normally works at least 3 hours between midnight and 7am and who works at night for at least half of their working hours in a year.
Night workers' hours of work
In general the maximum average working week is 48 hours. Normally, a night worker should not work more than an average of 8 hours in a 24-hour period. The average is calculated over either a 2-month period or a longer period if it is part of a collective agreement.
If the night work involves special hazards or physical or mental strain, then working hours cannot exceed 8 hours in a 24-hour period. The employer is required to carry out a risk assessment in order to determine whether the night work involves special hazards, or physical or mental strain.
Pay rates and leave for night workers are not covered by the Organisation of Working Time Act. These depend on the terms of the night worker's contract of employment.
In general the law regulating the working hours of young people does not permit young people to do night work.
Health and safety
Part 6 of the Safety, Health and Welfare (General Application) Regulations 2007 states the steps an employer must take to ensure the health and safety of night workers. Before employing a person to do night work and at regular intervals while an employee is a night worker, an employer is required to make available an assessment of the effects, if any, on the health of the employee. This assessment must be made available, free of charge, to the employee. Alternatively, if the employee is entitled to have the assessment carried out by the State free of charge, the employer must make arrangements to allow the employee to access this entitlement.
If a night worker becomes ill as a result of night work, the employer should, whenever possible, assign duties to the employee that do not involve night work and which are suited to that employee.
How to apply
Disputes under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 or the Maternity Protection Acts should be referred by making a complaint within 6 months of the dispute occurring. You must use the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie. However this time limit may be extended for up to 12 months if there was reasonable cause for not bringing the complaint within the first 6 months.
The Health and Safety Authority has published a booklet, Guidance for Employers and Employees on Night and Shift Work (pdf).
Further information on night work and your employment rights is available from the Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service – see 'Where to apply' below.
Where to apply
Workplace Relations Commission
Information and Customer Service
Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 1890 80 80 90
Fax:(059) 917 8909