Co-op launches manifesto to put health and wellbeing of UK’s 7m night shift workers in the spotlight

Convenience retailer, Co-op, has launched a new manifesto in Parliament which calls upon retailers and policy makers to address the deteriorating physical and mental health of the nation’s growing army of night shift workers.

As figures reveal that there are now seven million people working at night – 54% of whom were identified as key workers at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic – the retailer wants organisations to demonstrate a duty of care for its night shift workers who are known to be at greater risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity and depression, all of which can be caused by chronic sleep disruption.

Co-op, in partnership with the Wellcome Trust and Liminal Space, recently rolled out its award-winning sleep engagement programme Night Club to its 8,000 strong logistics workforce and has laid out the five ‘Rs’ which it believes will begin to create a template to help address the wider health and social issues that are being created by the move towards a 24-hour society:

  1. Recognise and champion night workers as a coherent group
  2. Respond to their needs and place night shift workers at the heart of any solution
  3. Respect and understand that they face a specific set of challenges in a variety of working conditions
  4. Research-led approach to implement evidence-based solutions
  5. Raise their profile and mobilise a cross-industry response to mitigate these challenges

The retailer also states that in time, companies will and should be held legally responsible for the consequences of night work unless mitigating action is taken.

Andy Perry, Co-op’s Supply Chain and Logistics Director, said: “Sleep is something that unites us all – we all need it and we all know how terrible we can feel without enough of it. Yet whilst our round-the-clock culture is propped up by a growing number of people who work through the night, their contribution to society goes largely ignored.

“It is essential that we, as employers, do everything in our power to establish a recognised framework of best practice which places the interests of nightshift workers at its heart and that policy is put in place to protect their physical and mental health. We are delighted to be launching this new manifesto and we hope that it forms the basis of a movement which will radically improve the lives of many people who are working in the UK night after night, year after year.”

Recent Co-op research shows that night shift workers, who admit to feeling like the forgotten or invisible workforce, are twice as likely to miss out on key family events. Furthermore, that one in three are getting less than five hours sleep a night in comparison to one in six day time workers.

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