Night-shift workers warned of health risks

The Government is being urged to limit the length of night shifts to eight hours, after a study warned that a growing number of people working through the night face increased health risks.

Working at night potentially exposed staff to greater risk of cancer, pregnancy problems and poor mental health, which links to social and family life being disrupted, according to the “social innovation” thinktank the Young Foundation.

Night workers were three times more likely to have an industrial accident and twice as likely to have a car accident on the way home from work. Yet the growth in the 24-hour service economy, with shops, services and leisure activities open later in the evening, if not throughout the night, are all fuelling demand for people to work unsociable hours.

Some 1.3 million people currently work at night and this number is likely to grow, the report said. Many people worked night shifts of up to 12 or 13 hours, it found. The organisation has called for legislation to ensure that night shifts are limited to a maximum of eight hours, with clear guidelines for overtime.

Its research also showed that most night workers were unaware of the risks associated with their shift patterns. So there was a clear need for employers to raise awareness of the risks of night working among workers and those responsible for managing their shift patterns and working environments.

XpertHR provides more information on the risks associated with night-shift working.

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