As the clocks go back tonight (Saturday) to mark the beginning of winter, the TUC is urging greater protection for the millions of UK workers who regularly work through the night.
New analysis published by the TUC today shows that the number of people who work night shifts has increased by 151,000 (5%) since 2013 to reach more than 3 million (3,138,000). Britain’s night workers now account for one in nine (11.5%) employees.
Women accounted for two-thirds (66.8%) of the increase, with 101,000 more women working at night than five years ago. While male night workers still outnumber women night workers (1,891,000 compared to 1,247,000), the growing employment in health and social care is a key reason behind more women working night shifts.
The two most common professions for female night workers are carework and nursing, which together account for 561,000 women employees working at night. The number of men working at night has been boosted by an extra 259,000 road transport drivers and 17,000 social care assistants.
The number of night workers over 50 has risen by 114.5%. Most night workers are aged between 30 and 49 (1,393,000) but increased employment in social care and the trend towards working past 65 have spread the age profile of night working. There are now 674,000 people aged 50-59 working at night (an increase of 94.8% in the last five years), while the current total of 197,000 night workers aged 60 plus is a 392.7% increase on 2013.
Retail, transport and health and social services
Three industries account for most of the increase in night working in the past 5 years. Wholesale and retail, transport and distribution and health and social care has added 136,000 extra night workers between them.
Regional night working
The biggest increase in night working has been in the West Midlands (+49,000), followed by the East of England (+48,000) and the East Midlands (+28,000). However, night working in Scotland has declined sharply (-55,000) and also fell in the South East (-21,000).
The South East and London still tie for the highest number of night workers (378,000 each) even though they also have the lowest percentage of employees working nights (9.9% each). The highest percentage is still found in the North East (14.9% of employees), followed by Wales (14.2%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (13.1%).
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 taxi drivers getting people home safely, we all depend on Britain’s army of night-workers.
“Night work is hard and can disrupt family life. So, we should 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.”