I was recently invited by BBC Radio Northampton to speak about shiftwork which is a form of flexible working. In this blog I look at shiftwork – the pros and cons.
Shiftwork can take various forms – it can be just straight nights, as opposed to just working days. The double day shift can be 6am to 2pm one week then 2pm to 10pm another week. The continental shift can be a rolling timetable of an early morning shift, followed by an afternoon shift followed by a night shift.
For an employee shiftwork can have lots of advantages. It may suit their lifestyle if they have no ties. An employee can beat the traffic when working shifts as they may not meet peak hour traffic. They can get stuff done – go to the bank, get their hair cut or the car MOT’d for example. They can get their shopping done when other people are at work and the children at school. They can attend appointments with the doctor or hospital and not need additional time off. Shiftwork may work with an individual’s body clock and they can receive better pay as often the employer will pay a shift enhancement.
The downsides, however, can be they may not be able to use public transport to get to work and back home for example in the early hours of the morning. Shiftwork could wreak havoc on their personal and social life. It’s no good if all the parties are taking place whilst you are at work and your partner might not be too happy. It can wreck a person’s body clock causing tiredness and fatigue. There could be a threat to health. It has been reported that there is an increased risk of getting cancer when working nights regularly for example and individuals could be at risk of a vitamin D deficiency if they receive inadequate exposure to sunlight.
For an employer the benefits of shift work can be the ability to keep the production line flowing for example with a 24/7 operation which can meet customer demand. With shift work an employer can provide continuous cover as is needed in the NHS and care homes for example. Employers must however, be mindful of employment law related to shift work, notably health and safety and the Working Time Directive legislation.
Employers should do a health and safety risk assessment for night workers looking at workload activity, rest periods and breaks for example. With the Working Time Directive employers should ensure there is an eleven hour gap between shifts. Employees should be given one day off every seven days or two days off every fourteen days. Night workers should be given regular health checks.