Information for employers on night working

Night working

If your organisation requires employees to work through the night, in particular during the period between 11pm and 6am, this is classed as night shift.

On this page, you will find information and resources on your responsibilities for employees working night shifts, including health assessments.

Your responsibilities as an employer

Night work must be at least 7 hours long and include the period from midnight to 5am.

Night workers should not work more than 8 hours daily on average, including overtime, where it is part of a night worker's normal hours of work. You need to keep records of night workers' hours to prove they are not exceeding these limits. You must keep these records for at least 2 years.

Nightly working time should be averaged out over a reference period. This is usually 17 weeks. This period can be longer if agreed in a workforce or collective agreement. However, a night worker cannot opt out of the night working limit average of 8 hours on night work every 24 hours.

Workers must take at least two days off in every fortnight. This means that the average weekly limit for night working is 48 hours per week – 6 days at 8 hours per day.

Workers under the age of 18 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. You can find information about this on the GOV.UK website (external site).​

Some night work can be classed as having specific mental or physical strain. This is identified through risk assessments​​​​ or set out in collective or workforce agreements. If it is identified, then the night shift period can't be longer than 8 hours in any 24-hour period.

Night shift exceptions

The regulations restricting the length of night working to 8 hours do not apply for some workers. For example:

  • emergency services dealing with a major incident
  • private domestic staff
  • in an industry with busy peak periods
  • those doing jobs that cannot be interrupted
  • some mobile workers

​As with day workers, night workers are entitled to at least 20 minutes rest during any period of work lasting 6 hours or more.

Health assessments for night workers

Night shift workers are entitled to a free health assessment prior to the commencement of the role. Thereafter, health assessment should be offered periodically. Workers do not have to take up this offer.

These health assessments may be in the form of a questionnaire or, where necessary, a medical assessment.

You should get help from a suitably qualified health professional when devising and assessing the questionnaire. This could be from a doctor or nurse who understands how night working might affect health.

As with all health assessments, employers must keep a record of:

  • type of work
  • the name of the night worker
  • the results of the assessment
  • when the assessment was offered
  • date when assessment was refused​
  • restrictions on hours under the law
  • when the assessment was carried out

Special consideration should be given to vulnerable groups such as new and expectant mothers, and young workers.

If an employee's health is affected by night work, they should, where reasonably practicable, be offered alternative suitable day work. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS​) website (external site) has more information on working night shifts.

Find out more

You can find out more about managing shift work on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) site.