Last reviewed 4 January 2021

Convenience retailer Co-op has called on other retailers and policy-makers to address the deteriorating physical and mental health of the nation’s growing army of night-shift workers.

Launching its new manifesto in Parliament, it quoted figures showing that there are seven million people working at night ― 54% of whom were identified as key workers at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

It wants organisations to demonstrate a duty of care for their night-shift workers who are known to be at greater risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity and depression, all of which can be caused by chronic sleep disruption.

Welcoming the manifesto, Usdaw national officer John Gorle said: “Research shows that night work is bad for your health, chiefly because of disrupted sleep patterns. It’s not easy catching up in the daytime, so one in three manage fewer than five hours sleep a day”.

Co-op, in partnership with the Wellcome Trust and Liminal Space, recently rolled out its award-winning sleep engagement programme Night Club to its 8000-strong logistics workforce.

It has laid out the five “Rs”, which it believes will begin to create a template to help address the wider health and social issues that are being created by the move towards a 24-hour society as follows.

  • Recognise and champion night workers as a specific group.

  • Respond to their needs and place night-shift workers at the heart of any solution.

  • Respect and understand that they face a specific set of challenges in a variety of working conditions.

  • Research-led approach to implement evidence-based solutions.

  • Raise their profile and mobilise a cross-industry response to mitigate these challenges.

Usdaw praised the attempt to listen to the staff and to give them time, during their shift, to discuss the health issues and pressures of night work with experts.

“Workers were able to book one-to-one consultations and learn about online tools, recipe cards,” Mr Gorle said. “Usdaw is looking to work with other employers to extend the reach of this impressive initiative.”