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Night Workers and Negligence: Do Nightshifts Cause Disease and When Are Employers Liable? - Gus Baker, Outer Temple Chambers & David Green, 12 King's Bench Walk

26/07/17. There is a growing medical consensus that night-shift work is bad for your health. The disruption to circadian rhythms caused by working out of normal human waking hours is linked in the scientific literature with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.

The negative health effects that can be caused by night work are recognised in legislation and official guidance. Night work is governed by the Working Time Directive, implemented by the Working Time Regulations 1998 (‘WTR 1998’), which provides that no more than eight out of 24 hours can be worked overnight (Regulation 6), and that night shift workers should receive specific health assessments (Regulation 7). The HSE recommends mixing shifts, and that “permanent night shifts should be avoided”. Recital 7 of the Directive itself notes that “long periods of night work can be detrimental to the health of workers and can endanger safety at the workplace”.

This guidance is regularly disregarded: the 2011 Labour Force Survey found 338,000 workers on permanent night shifts (in defiance of the HSE’s guidance), and another 597,000 alternate between day and night shifts. Night work – taking in, as it does, delivery and distribution workers, cleaners and security staff – is often the lot of low paid, casualised, temporary and vulnerable workers...

Image ©iStockphoto.com/DOUGBERRY

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