Older workers powering increase in night working, TUC analysis reveals

By agency reporter
October 28, 2019

Older workers are powering the increase in night working, according to new TUC analysis which shows that over-50s account for all the growth in night working since 2014.

There are now nearly one million (924,000) night workers aged over 50 in Britain – up from 751,000 five years ago, and a significant number are aged over 60 (222,000) and 65 (69,000).

The TUC says key factors behind the rise are:

  • older employees staying in work for longer
  • more jobs being created in sectors like social care where older workers are more likely to be employed

The number of people regularly working night shifts is at its highest level since the Office for National Statistics began collecting records in their current form. The analysis of official data shows that 3.25 million people (more than one in nine workers) work in Britain’s night-time economy – 100,000 more than five years ago.

While the number of over-50s doing night work has accelerated in recent years, fewer young workers are doing night shifts.

Care workers (432,000) account for the majority of night workers, followed by nurses and midwives (232,000). The next most common profession for night workers is road transport drivers (208,000).

The number of employees working in social care has increased by 66,000 in the past five years, with 63,000 of this increase being workers aged over 50.

The South East has the most night workers in Britain (435,000) with London close behind (414,000).

But the North East (14.8 per cent), Scotland (13.3 per cent), Wales (13 per cent) and Midlands (13 per cent) have higher shares of their workforce regularly doing night work than the capital (11 per cent).

As winter begins, the TUC is urging greater protection for the millions of UK workers who regularly work through the night.

As well as being bad for family life, the health risks of regular night work include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression, and the TUC says these risks are heightened for older workers.

Commenting on the analysis, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Britain’s loyal army of night workers has been boosted significantly by older workers. We all owe them a huge debt for keeping the country ticking over while we are asleep. Night work can be really hard – disrupting family life and placing a strain on people’s health.The government is not doing enough to protect these workers. They need better notice of their shifts and proper compensation if work is cancelled.”

The TUC recommends that:

  • Government should tighten the rules on night working. Workers should be able to enforce their rights at an employment tribunal.
  • Employers and unions should ensure that night working is only introduced where necessary.
  • Where night working is introduced into a workplace, no existing workers should be forced to work nights.
  • Shift patterns should be negotiated between unions and employers.
  • Workers should have some element of control over their rotas, so that they can ensure that the shifts they work are best suited to their individual circumstances.
  • Government should legislate to ensure that workers always have sufficient notice of their shift patterns, so they can make arrangements well in advance. Changes at short notice should be compensated.
  • Pay for those working nights should properly reflect the likely additional costs of childcare and inconvenience that night shifts can entail.

* Trades Union Congress https://www.tuc.org.uk/


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