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Number working nights rises to 3m as unions warn of impact on families

Published 05/08/2015

The TUC says no existing workers should be forced to work nights
The TUC says no existing workers should be forced to work nights

The number of people working nights has increased to more than three million since the recession and is set to rise further because of plans to extend services and the NHS, according to a new report.

The TUC warned that working through the night can hit family life and lead to higher childcare costs, urging firms to give workers control over their shifts.

The report was published ahead of a 24-hour strike from this evening by London Underground workers in a row over plans for an all-night Tube service.

Rail unions are unhappy with the work-life balance arrangements for staff faced with night shifts.

The TUC said its research showed a 200,000 increase in the number of night workers between 2007 and 2014, to 3.1 million.

The proportion of employees working nights has risen from 11.7% to 12.3%, the study found.

Night workers used to be mainly men in manufacturing factories, but almost 10% of women now work through the night, compared with around 15% of men.

The number of women working nights is growing at a faster rate than for men, with care work and nursing the top two sectors for night work.

The TUC said the negative health impact of night work was well known, but it warned it could also hit family life.

The union organisation said no existing workers should be forced to work nights, shifts should be negotiated, and staff should have some control over their rotas.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "We all value night workers, whether they are cleaning our office, caring for a sick relative or driving all night so that there are fresh goods in our local shop. But night work is hard and it disrupts family life. So we must show our appreciation for the sacrifices night workers make by ensuring they have sensible rights and protections.

"It's not right for employers to require night working without adequate consultation and negotiation. With night work increasing, employers must play fair and play safe, or public safety will be put at risk and the families of night workers will suffer."

Amy Leversidge of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "Babies come along at all times of the day, and of course the night, so many midwives work regular night shifts. They also work nights on on-call systems, for example covering home births.

"We need to value much more the sacrifice and impact on personal and physical wellbeing that night working can entail, particularly considering that over 99% of midwives are female and so are more likely to have to make childcare arrangements.

"Employers should ensure they are doing everything they can to support night workers, in particular older workers, and the Government should also be ensuring that midwives and other health professionals are adequately compensated for working night shifts, particularly because of the increased costs of childcare at night."

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