More than two-thirds (68%) of UK shift workers feel the hours they work or the pattern of their roster is affecting their physical or mental health.
A poll of 5,000 shift workers by jobs’ site Breakroom and software provider Surfboard found that, rather than being able to fit work around their lifestyles, shift workers too often had little choice over their hours. Half said they had no input into their shifts and were unable to schedule them around their needs.
A similar percentage (56%) felt their shifts were poorly planned and 48% said they often got less than 12-hour breaks between shifts (the legal minimum is 11 hours). Nearly a third 30% had one week’s notice or less of their shift.
Among other findings, the poll concluded that 58% of breaks were non-scheduled, 61% did not get paid breaks, and 30% did unpaid overtime.
Shift work has long been associated with heightened health risks, including greater risk of some cancers, heart disease and diabetes, although whether this is because of the shift-working itself or associated factors (such as less access to healthier food choices or poorer sleep patterns) is less clear.
Anna Maybank, chief executive of Breakroom, said: “Too often, what is ‘flexible’ for an employer isn’t flexible for a worker. Employers claim shift work is flexible, but with 50% of workers reporting they don’t get any say over their shifts, that’s clearly not the case.
Shift work and health
“Our research shows that there is a gap between what an employer thinks is a ‘good’ job and what is actually a good job,” she added.
Natasha Ratanshi-Stein, chief executive of Surfboard, agreed: “Shift workers are often left in the dark about their schedules, leading to stress and burnout. This research shows that 78% of shifts are planned locally at the branch or team level and it is frequently being done last minute.
“Poorly organised shifts are a huge hidden cost to businesses both from employee morale and retention but also down to proper planning and making sure you have the right number of staff in at the right time,” she added.