As the clocks go back to mark the beginning of British Winter time, the TUC is urging people to spare a thought for the millions of UK workers who regularly work through the night.
New analysis published by the TUC shows that the number of people who work night shifts increased by 275,000 (9%) between 2011 and 2016 to 3,135,000.
Britain’s large army of night-workers now accounts for one in eight (12%) employees.
Women are fuelling the growth in night work
It used to be that most night-workers were men working in manufacturing plants but this has changed drastically. In 2016 one in seven male employees (14%) were night-workers, compared to one in 11 (9%) female employees.
However, women account for more than two-thirds (69%) of the growth in night-working over the past five years.
Between 2011 and 2016 the number of women regularly doing night work increased by 190,000, while for men it increased by 86,000.
Clear gender split in night-working
There is a clear gender split in the kind of jobs male and female night-workers do.
The two most common professions for female night-workers are care-working and nursing. The number of women doing night shifts in these professions increased by 15% and 4% respectively over the past five years.
Male night workers are most likely to work in protective service occupations (military, security, policing) and road transport. However, the number of men doing night shifts in these professions fell by 26% and 12% respectively over the past five years.
People in the mid-40s are most likely to be night-workers
Night work can begin as young as 16. More than 80,000 workers aged 16-20 regularly work nights. And there are nearly 150,000 people still working night shifts in their sixties.
But the age group with the highest proportion of night-workers is 45-49. They account for one in 8 of those who usually work nights.
Male night-workers are most likely to be aged between 45–49. However, the most common age group for women night-workers is 25–29.
London has seen the largest growth in night work
London has seen the largest growth in night-workers over the past five years (+98,000), followed by the South West (+50,000) and Wales (+40,000).
The TUC says the introduction of the Night Tube in London, and proposals for a seven-day NHS, are likely to lead to further increases in night work in coming years.
However, across all parts of the UK night-working has increased fastest in Northern Ireland (+58%), followed by London (+30%) and Wales (+29%).
Commenting on the analysis, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Tonight most of us can look forward to an extra hour in bed. But as we sleep, millions of workers will be busy keeping the UK ticking over.
“Whether its nurses looking after patients, or police officers keeping our streets safe, we all depend on Britain’s army of night-workers.
“Night work is hard and can disrupt family life. So we must show our appreciation for the sacrifices night-workers make by ensuring they have good rights and protections at work.
“Employers must play fair and play safe, or public safety will be put at risk and the families of night workers will suffer.”
The work-life balance impacts of night-working
The negative health impacts of night work are already well-documented, such as heightened risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression. However, less attention has been given to the impacts on home life and relationships.
The TUC does not oppose night-working, but argues that employers must properly consider and address its impact on staff. Decisions to extend night working should always involve talks with unions.