What are the maximum hours a nightworker can be expected to work in every 24 hours?

Most workers who normally work at night (including regular rotating shifts, but excluding those who only occasionally work nights) are protected under the Working Time Regulations.

Nightwork is defined as at least three hours work taking place during the hours 11pm to 6am. Over a period of 17 weeks (known as the 'reference period') workers cannot be required to work more than an average of eight hours on nightwork in every 24 hours (e.g. 48 hours per week over six working nights). The system of averaging out does not apply where nightwork involves special hazards, heavy physical or mental strain. In these cases, there is an absolute daily limit – work cannot be continued beyond eight hours in any 24 hours.

Unfortunately, for some workers (for example, security guards, caretakers, and those doing certain jobs which cannot be interrupted) the regulations restricting the length of nightwork to eight hours do not apply.

As with people working regular daytime hours, nightworkers are entitled to at least 20 minutes rest during any period of work lasting six hours or more.

Thankfully, employees cannot be encouraged to bend these rules – there is no 'opt-out' from these nightwork limits.

There are different rules for mobile transport workers and tougher rules for workers aged 16 and 17.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.