Long working hours and the impact on health and well-being

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2018 Health Care Service Group Conference
8 December 2017

Conference recognises that there is an increasing amount of our healthcare members working shifts of 10-12 hours plus. There are a variety of reasons why staff are working these shift patterns. For some it is a matter of personal choice and allows them to balance work and life commitments such as caring responsibilities. However, for some this is not a choice, it is a demand that is placed upon them either by financial pressures or by expectations of the employer. A survey was conducted by UNISON West Midlands Regional Health Committee earlier this year on working hours. The responses showed for instance that a majority of Band 5 Nurses are now working 12 hour plus shifts. Also, since the ongoing pay freeze, an ever increasing number of staff are having to undertake bank work, overtime or second jobs. We believe that further research needs to be conducted on the amount of hours and shift patterns our healthcare members are working regularly and the impact of these working hours on health and wellbeing.

This issue is important and relevant to all healthcare members because the structuring of shifts in this manner is now being rolled out to more and more staff groups, as demonstrated by the recent dispute by the Porters at Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust. We believe that where members express a choice or where there is an option to work these hours and/or take up the overtime, we wish for members to have information available on the potential effects of long working hours on their health and wellbeing in order to make an informed choice. In addition to this, where our members are looking to resist the imposition of such shift patterns, having this research available will allow UNISON to better campaign and negotiate.

Conference calls upon the Service Group Executive to:

1)conduct further research into what shifts patterns and hours our healthcare members are working, the reasons why they are doing so and the long and short term effects on their health and well-being.

2)make available bargaining advice to branches based on the outcome of the survey.