Does an employer have to pay increased wages to take into account unsociable hours?

  • Pay & Benefits
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

If your workers are on unsociable hours, do you have to pay them more? With our expert insights, you can find out what you should pay staff working at unusual times.

Unsocial hours payments are the increased hourly pay rates for workers who take hours or shifts at times judged as unsocial. This can include night shifts or weekend shifts. But do you need to pay more to staff who work unsociable hours?

Wages are, traditionally, increased due to the impact and detriment the unsocial hours have on workers’ health and personal life. This means there's an extra incentive for commonly hard to fill shifts to work. 

But there's no legal entitlement for employers to offer increased pay for working unsocial hours. Night workers and weekend workers only have a legal right for the National Minimum Wage. This is (as of 2018) £7.83 for anyone 25 and over. It's £7.38 for ages 21 to 24, £5.90 for 18 to 20, and £4.20 for under 18s.  

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 made by each individual company taking in to account their individual business needs. 

If an employee is working under a contract of employment that includes unsocial hours payments, they'll gain a contractual right to the additional pay when they're 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 must also pay the additional money to part-time workers on shifts, as they cannot have unfavourable treatment. 

If you want to introduce unsocial hours payments, carry out a consultation process with your staff. This is dependent on the number of staff affected as their terms and conditions of employment may receive a change.  The chances are you won't face much opposition to the change as it's beneficial for staff. However, some changes and considerations may have to factor the shifts selected and the pay rises suggested. Once an employee has agreed to the payment total, record this in writing and include it in the contracts of your staff. 

For clarification on this issue please contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772

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