Night workers should have more control over their rotas to help reduce the negative impact shifts can have on their family and social life, according to new analysis of research on the effect of non-standard hours.
The Trades Union Congress, which carried out the analysis, warned that government plans to introduce a “seven day NHS” would likely see increasing numbers of healthcare staff working these shifts.
It found night working – which is already on the up, by 7% in the UK since 2007 - not only risks impacting on the employee’s health, but that is can also damage their home life and relationships with members of their family.
Working non-standard hours can have a negative impact on children’s behaviour and emotional wellbeing and lead to problems between married couples and partners, noted the TUC in its report, A Hard Day’s Night - The effect of night shift work on work/life balance.
“Where the rewards [for working night shifts] are greater, the [negative] effects appear to be reduced”
A Hard Day’s Night report
It highlighted these negative effects were reduced if night shifts were tailored to suit employees’ personal lives and if they were paid more to work them.
“Where the rewards are greater, the effects appear to be reduced. This may be because those with higher incomes can afford better childcare arrangements or can improve the quality time they spend with their partners or children,” said the TUC.
The TUC also pointed to official data that show nursing and midwifery and the care sector are the top two professions with the largest number of night workers.
”With night work increasing, employers must play fair and play safe, or the families of night workers will suffer”
According to data from the Office for National Statistics, in 2014 there were 261,000 nurses and midwives and 450,000 care staff classed as night workers.
To reduce the negative impactson these staff, the TUC called for employers and the government to put measures in place that will better protect them.
It recommended employers ensure workers have “sufficient” notice of their shift patterns to make arrangements for childcare and other responsibilities and that employees should have some control over their rota to fit their personal circumstances.
Additional payments for working at night should reflect the additional costs from childcare and the inconvenience caused by the shift, the body added.
“We need to value much more the sacrifice and impact on personal and physical wellbeing that night working can entail”
Royal College of Midwives
It also said night shifts should only be introduced where necessary, and that if they are brought in by an employer then existing workers should not be forced to take part in them.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “With night work increasing, employers must play fair and play safe, or public safety will be put at risk and the families of night workers will suffer.
“We all value night workers…But night work is hard and it disrupts family life. So we must show our appreciation for the sacrifices night workers make by ensuring they have sensible rights and protections.”
Commenting on the report, Royal College of Midwives employment relations advisor Amy Leversidge said it highlighted the responsibilities of employers to ensure the wellbeing of staff.
“We need to value much more the sacrifice and impact on personal and physical wellbeing that night working can entail, particularly considering that over 99% of midwives are female and so are more likely to have to make childcare arrangements,” she said.
A recent report by leading nurse researchers found there had been a rise in the use of 12-hour shifts, which could be risking patient safety.
It found 31% of staff nurses on NHS wards reported working 12-hour shifts in 2005 compared with 52% in 2009.