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In the modern “24-hour society” the classical working day, 7-8 a.m. to 5-6 p.m., Monday to Friday is a condition affecting a minority of the working population while majority is expected to work in irregular or non standard working hours.

The definition of shift work includes work activity scheduled outside of conventional daytime hours:

  • work during the afternoon, night, fixed early morning or weekend, typically with periods of the work schedule outside standard daytime hours
  • extended work periods of 12 hours or more, often associated with compressing the working week;
  • rotating three shift work - employees rotate (alternate) more or less regularly between a day, an evening, and a night shift.
  • split shifts, where work periods are divided into two distinct parts with several hours break in between
  • standby/on-call duties (1,2)

In the UK,

  • number of shift workers have gradually increased with a peak in 2000 where around 15% of the working population (approximately 3.8 million people), worked shifts for ‘most of the time’
    • since then numbers have stabilised, with around 14% of the working population (3.6 million people) now doing shift work ‘most of the time’
  • almost a fifth of the worldwide workforce is engaged in shift work
    • around 20% of European and American workers are reported to be engaged in night shift work
  • according to an European study on working condition, only 27% of employed and 8% of self employed people have the conventional working time (1,2)


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