Liminal Space workers

Multiple long-term conditions

Progress on policies for healthier night shifts

6 July 2023
5 min read

Terry-Ann Mendes explores the brilliant policy work of our partner, Liminal Space.

Terry-Ann Mendes
Terry-Ann Mendes
Policy and Influencing Officer

Advocating for night shift workers

In my time at Impact on Urban Health supporting the Policy and Influencing team, I’ve learned a lot about how factors like our neighbourhoods, homes, and work can impact our health. 

These impacts are not felt equally. In South London, people from ethnically minoritised communities are often most affected by the combined impact of unhealthy work, poor housing, and environmental factors such as air pollution. If we are to address the growing health inequality gap, we need to make the places where we live and work healthier for all.

At Impact on Urban Health, we work with partners to trial solutions for better health across Lambeth and Southwark. As well as finding solutions, our partners gather insights and evidence on how we can improve health. In the Policy and Influencing team, our aim is to work with our partners and use these solutions and insights to shape decision-making.

As anyone working to influence policy knows, it can take time and effort to make a change. So, it was a truly exciting experience to see our partner The Liminal Space make an impact on decision-makers and how they think about how shift work, especially at night, can negatively impact our health. 

Improving health for night shift workers

Working at night is classified as ‘probably carcinogenic’ by the World Health Organization. People working nights are more at risk of developing serious health conditions – such as heart disease, diabetes or mental health issues – than people that work during the day. The number of people working night shifts is on the rise, with over 7 million people in the UK working at night.

Our partner The Liminal Space, operates the Night Club programme to raise awareness of the health issues associated with long-term night shift work and sleep disruption. The Night Club programme brings sleep researchers, night shift workers, and employers together to establish ways to have a healthier working experience through direct interventions.

Watch our video on our work with Liminal Space here.

Impact in action: Liminal Space at the BEIS Committee

In April of this year, The Liminal Space brought evidence from the Night Club on the health risks of the night shift – or as they’ve found – ‘the forgotten shift’ to parliament. It was amazing to see the insights from our partnership being reviewed by the Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee – now known as the Business and Trade Committee.

The BEIS Committee has agreed and identified that there is a need for night workers to be looked at as a distinct group of workers. Prior to The Liminal Space giving evidence to the Committee, they were unaware of the full extent of the negative health impact that night work causes.

The subsequent BEIS Committee report on post-pandemic economic growth now recommends that government should take more steps to provide protection for workers from any effects of night-time working. It also calls for government to commission an investigation into the health and safety implications of night-time work.

The Liminal Space followed up their successful evidence session with a parliamentary event on June 21 in the House of Commons. The Liminal Space gave 60 guests a first-hand experience of the Night Club initiative, welcoming a cross-party group of more than 20 members of parliament, night workers, business leaders, and academics.

Speaking at the event were Director of Liminal Space and Founder of Night Club Sarah Douglas, London Night Czar Amy Lamé, Co-op Sleep Champions Colin Easson, Kat Uren, and Terry Robinson, alongside Co-Op’s Head of Logistics Ian Gibb, ex-nurse and MP Paulette Hamilton, MP and Chair of the Business and Trade Select Committee Darren Jones, and Professor Russell Foster, Director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford. Together they made the case that a focus on making night shift work healthier will improve health and bring benefits to employers as well as the economy. 

Looking to the future

It has been so encouraging to see the journey that The Liminal Space has been on to raise awareness of ‘the forgotten shift’. By zeroing in on night shifts, they’ve been able to really make progress for the millions of people whose health is affected by when they work.

We support The Liminal Space in their calls to government to change the Working Time Directive to require annual health checks, and to further investigate the health impact of working at night. We also support the call to recognise night work as distinct and assigning an MP to be responsible for the needs of night workers.

We look forward to seeing and supporting the next phase of work on rights for night workers. While change can take time – it’s been great to see this tangible progress for people who have often been left out of the conversation on better working conditions.