What hours should I work as a nightshift worker?

Workers who normally work at night (including those on regular rotating shifts, but excluding those who only occasionally work nights) are protected under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR).

Nightwork is defined as at least three hours of work taking place between the hours of 11pm and 6am. Over a reference period of 17 weeks, workers cannot be required to work more than an average of eight hours on nightwork in every 24 hours.

As workers must take at least two days off in every fortnight, this means that the average weekly limit for nightwork is 48 hours per week (six days multiplied by eight hours). No opt-out from this limit is allowed.

An exception to the average is where nightwork involves special hazards, or heavy physical or mental strain. In these cases there is an absolute daily limit – work cannot be continued beyond eight hours in any 24.

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 dayworkers, nightworkers are entitled to at least 20 minutes rest during any period of work lasting more than six hours.

Note that there is no provision to opt-out from the limits on nightwork.

There are special rules for young workers aged 16 and 17. 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. See our Young Workers section for more information.

There are also special rules for pregnant workers. Where a woman works nights and has a certificate from her GP or a midwife showing that it is necessary for her health and safety not to work nights, the employer should suspend her from working nights for the period stated in the certificate and offer suitable alternative day time work on the same terms and conditions. If there is no suitable alternative day work, she should be suspended on full pay for as long as needed for her health and safety.

A pregnant woman should not be routinely forced to leave her night shift where there is no medical evidence from a doctor or midwife that this is necessary.

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.