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Do you have to pay more for unsociable hours?

By Peninsula HR

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Unsocial hour’s payments are the increased hourly pay rates for workers who work hours or shifts at times which are judged to be unsocial, such as night shifts or weekend shifts. Pay has traditionally been increased by companies due to the impact and detriment the unsocial hours have on workers’ health and personal life and as an added incentive for commonly hard to fill shifts to be worked. 

There is no legal entitlement for employers to offer increased pay for working unsocial hours. Night workers and weekend workers only have a legal right to be paid the National Minimum Wage, currently £6.50 for workers aged 21 and over. Certain industries, such as care or security, which require a 24 hour, seven day a week service will commonly offer these additional payments to staff because they require a certain number of members of staff at all times regardless of how difficult these shifts are to fill. However, the decision on determining shift rates of pay is one to be made by each individual company taking in to account their individual business needs. 

If an employee is working under a contract of employment which includes unsocial hour’s payments, they will gain a contractual right to the additional pay when they are working the allocated ‘unsocial shifts’. A failure to meet this contractual right by an employer will result in a breach of contract, a situation from which an employee can resign and claim constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal. Employers will also be obliged to pay the additional money to part-time workers working the shifts as they cannot be treated less favourably.

If, as a business, you decide to introduce unsocial hour’s payments a consultation process should be carried out with staff, dependent on the number of staff affected, because their terms and conditions of employment will be altered. It is likely that there will be little opposition to the change as it will be beneficial for staff, though some changes and considerations may be put forward to factors such as the shifts selected and the pay rises suggested. Once the extra payment is agreed, this should be recorded in writing and included in the contracts of new starters.

Published May 2015