Working Time Regulations Guide

Working at Night

  • A night worker is someone who normally works at least three hours at night.
  • Night time is between 11pm and 6am, although workers and employers may agree to vary this.
  • Night workers should not work more than eight hours daily on average, including overtime where it is part of a night worker’s normal hours of work.
  • Nightly working time is calculated over 17 weeks. This can be longer in some situations.
  • A night worker cannot opt-out of the night work limit
  • Young workers should not ordinarily work at night, although there are certain exceptions (please see Special night work limits for Young Workers).

Employers must check:

  • Whether you employ people who could be classified as night workers.
  • How much working time night workers normally work.
  • If night workers normally work more than eight hours a day on average, how they can reduce hours of work or whether any exceptions or flexibilities apply.
  • If a worker does work which may be particularly hazardous.

Mobile workers

Mobile workers2 are excluded from the night work limits. Instead, they are entitled to ‘adequate rest’.

‘Adequate rest’ means that workers have regular rest periods. These should be sufficiently long and continuous to ensure that workers do not injure themselves, fellow workers or others and that they do not damage their health, either in the short term or in the longer term.

More detailed information

What is ‘night time’?

Night time is the period between 11pm and 6am, though employers and workers can choose a different period. If they do, it must be at least seven hours long and include the period from midnight to 5 am.

Who is a night worker?

You will be a "night worker" if your daily working time includes at least three hours of night time:

  • on most days you work;
  • on a proportion of the days you work which is specified in a collective or workforce agreement; or
  • often enough for it to be said that you work such hours "as a normal course".

The words "as a normal course", means on a regular basis. There has been a Court ruling that a worker who worked at night for one third of his working time was a night worker. Further clarification from the European Court is expected in due course. Occasional, or ad hoc, work at night does not make you a night worker.

Nightly working time should be averaged out over a reference period, which is usually 17 weeks. This period could be longer if agreed in a workforce or collective agreement. Night work limits do not apply in the special circumstances.

If workers work less than 48 hours a week on average, they will not exceed the night work limits.

The average hours worked at night are calculated by dividing the number of normal hours worked in the reference period – e.g. 17 weeks – by the number of days in the period, after the number of rest days which the worker has taken in relation to their entitlement under the regulations has been subtracted.

Normal hours of night work include overtime where it is part of a night worker’s normal hours of work.

Example 1:

A night worker normally works four 12-hour shifts each week.

The total number of normal hours of work for a 17-week reference period is :

17 weeks of 4 shifts of 12 hours

17 x (4 x 12) = 816

There are 119 days (17 weeks) and the worker takes 17 weekly rest periods, as entitled to under the regulations. Therefore the number of days the worker could be asked to work is 119 – 17 = 102

To calculate the daily average working time, the total of hours is divided by the number of days a worker could be required to work.

816 / 102 = 8

This equals an average of 8 hours a day.

 

Example 2:

A night worker normally works 5 days of 10 hours followed by 3 days of rest. The cycle starts at the beginning of the reference period (so there are 15 cycles of work). The worker takes 2 weeks’ leave and works 6 hours overtime every five weeks. During this reference period, the overtime is worked in the fifth, tenth, and fifteenth weeks. The leave does not affect the calculation of normal hours, but the overtime does.

15 cycles of 5 shifts of 10 hours = 15 x (5 x 10) = 750 hours

6 hours overtime x 3 = 18 = 768 hours (including overtime)

There are 119 days (17 weeks) and the worker takes 17 weekly rest periods, as entitled to under the regulations. Therefore the number of days the worker could be asked to work is: 119 – 17 = 102

To calculate the daily average working time, the total of hours is divided by the number of days a worker could be required to work.

768 / 102 = 7.53

This equals an average of 7.53 hours a day.

Special hazards

Where a night worker’s work involves special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain, there is an absolute limit of eight hours on the worker’s working time each day – this is not an average.

Work will involve a special hazard if it is identified:

  • as such by agreement between an employer and workers in a collective agreement or workforce agreement; or
  • as posing a significant risk by a risk assessment which an employer has conducted under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Special night work limits for Young Workers

Young workers may not ordinarily work at night between 10pm and 6am, or between 11pm and 7am if the contract of employment provides for work after 10pm. However, exceptions apply in particular circumstances in the case of certain kinds of employment, as set out below.

Young workers may work throughout the night if they are employed in:

  • Hospitals or similar establishments

or in any of the following activities:

  • Cultural
  • Artistic
  • Sporting
  • Advertising

Young workers may work between 10 or 11pm to midnight and between 4am to 6 or 7am if they are employed in:

  • agriculture
  • retail trading
  • postal or newspaper deliveries
  • a catering business
  • a hotel, public house, restaurant, bar or similar establishment
  • a bakery

The circumstances in which young workers may work are that the work they are required to do is necessary to either:

  • maintain continuity of service or production, or
  • respond to a surge in demand for service or product

and

  • there is no adult available to perform the task
  • the employer ensures that the training needs of the young worker are not adversely affected
  • the young worker is allowed an equivalent period of compensatory rest

Young workers must be adequately supervised where that is necessary for their protection.

Young workers in the film and television industry can expect to be covered by the derogation from the night work limit, on the grounds that night shooting, sometimes pre-scheduled, may be required to "maintain continuity of production", and by the very nature of the work, there would be no adult available to perform the task. The young worker’s training needs should not be adversely affected and he should receive compensatory rest (see What is compensatory rest?).


2 For the purposes of the Working Time Regulations, "mobile worker" means any worker employed as a member of travelling or flying personnel by an undertaking which operates transport services for passengers or goods by road or air.

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