There is extra legal protection for people classed as night workers. The working hours of night workers are regulated by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.
The definition of ‘night work’
Night work means work done between midnight and 7am.
You are a night worker if:
- You normally works for at least 3 hours between midnight and 7am
- At least half of your working hours in a year are at night
Night workers' hours of work
In general the maximum average working week is 48 hours. As a night worker, you 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 your night work involves special hazards or physical or mental strain, you cannot be made to work more than 8 hours in a 24-hour period. Your employer must identify any special hazards or physical or mental strain in your work, assess how harmful they could be and take steps to reduce any risks.
In general, young people are not permitted to do night work. If you are under 18 you are classed as a young worker.
Your health and safety rights
An employer must take the following steps to protect the health and safety of night workers.
As there are health risks linked with night work, your employer must offer you a free health assessment. They must offer you a health assessment before you start working at night and at regular intervals while you are a night worker.
What if I become ill from working nights?
If you become ill as a result of night work, your employer should, provide you with suitable work that does not involve night work (where possible).
What if I am pregnant and working nights?
If you are pregnant and a quarter of your working hours are night work, you may be exempted from doing night work. You will need your doctor to certify that night work may affect your health and safety and that of your baby. If there is no suitable alternative work you may be given health and safety leave. This also applies for up to 14 weeks after the birth of your child.
The law on health and safety
The above measures are set out in Part 6 of the Safety, Health and Welfare (General Application) Regulations 2007.
How to make a complaint
You must make a complaint within 6 months of the dispute occurring. The 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).
Where to complain