Shift working

At PCS conference in 2006, delegates approved PCS policy on shift working. This fact sheet outlines the key recommendations of that policy. A full copy of the policy document can be requested from the Equality, Health and Safety Department at PCS HQ.


  1. Shift work and night work should only be worked where there is a sound operational need.
  2. Permanent night working is not conducive to good health and should be avoided wherever possible.
  3. If shift working is necessary, rotating shift patterns are preferable.
  4. Workers should be actively involved in decisions on the shift patterns to be worked.
  5. Such workers should be provided with sufficient information on research findings into the risks and effects of shift work to enable them to take sound decisions based on current state of knowledge.
  6. There is no current indication that any particular shift length (e.g. 12 hour versus 8 hour shifts) is more or less harmful to health.
  7. Shift systems should be designed with the maximum flexibility for individual workers, including working alternative patterns, flexible working hours, reduced and part time hours and to change shifts to meet caring responsibilities and union business needs, including training.
  8. Shift patterns should generally be designed to minimise phase adjustment and disruption to standard circadian rhythms. This generally requires forward-rotating patterns.
  9. Rotating shift patterns should tend towards shorter and more rapid rotation.
  10. Shift start and finish times should be planned to take account of research indications that earlier starts are more inclined to cause fatigue.
  11. Rest breaks, including 'lunch' breaks, need careful planning to minimise risks of fatigue, and of poor diet.
  12. Access to onsite canteen facilities is preferable.
  13. Where this is not feasible, provision of facilities to store food for later preparation, to heat food, and to eat in comfort is required.
  14. Non-caffeinated drinks should be readily available to shift workers.
  15. Tasks requiring intense concentration and/or physical effort should be minimised during night work.
  16. Workplace temperatures should be slightly raised for late, night and early morning shifts.
  17. First aid facilities need to take account of 24 hour shift patterns.
  18. Employee assistance plans need to take account of 24 hour shift patterns.
  19. Travel risks associated with early/late starts and finishes need to be addressed.
  20. Workers need to know how to apply for transfer from night work on medical/pregnancy grounds.
  21. Training schedules need to be designed to include shift workers.
  22. All shift workers should be trained in the management of lifestyle issues related to shift work.
  23. All shift workers should be given comprehensive information on risks relating to shift working.

Further information

For further guidance on shift working and the counter-measures that can be taken to address ill-health risks, contact PCS HQ.

Share PCS:

Visit PCS social sites: