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Last updated: 21.06.2023

Night work, shift work and periodic work

In many service sector workplaces, work is done at night, in shifts and periodically. Read here what these mean, and what rules and laws there are.

Night work

Night work means work that is done between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. There are limits to how much night work employers may ask workers to do. Night work is only allowed in situations listed in the Working Time Act (pdf). Young workers are mostly not allowed to do night work.

Collective agreements have rules about scheduling work. These rules may limit or expand situations in which employers may ask workers to do night work.

If you work nights, and there is no suitable public transport (bus, local train, etc.) when your shift begins or ends, and you have no car or other vehicle, the Working Time Act may give you the right to be transported to or from work.

If you work nights, you have the right to get a medical examination

Night work is physically and mentally more stressful than work that is done during the day. There may be big differences in how different people adjust to night work. In addition to individual differences, the situation of the family or the time spent traveling to work may also have an impact. A Government Decree (pdf) also states that night work may present a special risk of illness.

The possible general and individual health risks that may be caused by night work must be included in the occupational health service workplace report. The employer must make sure that workers who work nights get medical examinations.

Sometimes it may be necessary to give a worker the opportunity to change tasks or to change from night work to daytime work if this helps prevent a health risk. The need to change tasks may be temporary or permanent. For example, a medical treatment or pregnancy may require a temporary change.

The worker’s right to change tasks also depends on how large the company is, what production systems are used, and how many people work there. Large workplaces have more possibilities for changing tasks. This means that the worker does not have an automatic right to change from night work to daytime work. Occupational health care services help assess the need for changing tasks.

Shift work

In the Working Time Act (pdf), shift work means work in which shifts change regularly, and the periods have been agreed in advance. Shift work is usually done in two or three shifts. If there are three shifts, there is usually also night work.

Shift work that is not regular is also sometimes done in the service industries. Your shift may then be at any time, does not change always at the same time, and isn’t always the same length. Such shifts are used in the commercial sector, for example.

Periodic work

Working hours can be counted in periods in sectors that are specifically listed in the Working Time Act (pdf). In periodic work, the main rule is that the maximum working time is 120 hours during three weeks, or 80 hours during two weeks. In some service sectors, for example the hotel, restaurant and leisure industry, it has been agreed that the working time for a period of three weeks is 112.5 hours. 

The plus and minus of night work, shift work and periodic work

Shift work and periodic work may give you better pay and more free time. However, changes in your sleep and daily rhythm may be difficult if you want to spend time with friends or family. Changes in the rhythm are also stressful for your body.

It is important for your health and well-being not to work too long shifts or too many days without any free days. Also make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy food, exercise and live generally a healthy life.

Regular medical examinations may help keep you healthy.

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