2019 Volume 57 Issue 2 Pages 245-263
A large number of workers worldwide engage in shift work that can have significant influences upon the quality of working life. For most jurisdictions, setting and enforcing appropriate policies, regulations, and rules around shift work is considered essential to (a) prevent potentially negative consequences of shift work and (b) to improve worker health and well-being. However, the best ways to do this are often highly contested theoretical spaces and often culturally and historically bound. In this paper, we examine the regulatory approaches to regulating shift work in four different regions: Europe, North America, Australasia, and East Asia (Japan, China, and Korea). Despite the fact that social and cultural factors vary considerably across the regions, comparing regulatory frameworks and initiatives in one region can be instructive. Different approaches can minimally provide a contrast to stimulate discussion about custom and practice and, potentially, help us to develop new and innovative models to improve worker well-being and organizational productivity simultaneously. In this paper, our goal is not to develop or even advocate a “perfect” sets of regulations. Rather, it is to compare and contrast the diversity and changing landscape of current regulatory practices and to help organizations and regulators understand the costs and benefits of different approaches. For example, in recent years, many western countries have seen a shift away from prescriptive regulation toward more risk-based approaches. Advocates and critics vary considerably in what drove these changes and the benefit-cost analyses associated with their introduction. By understanding the different ways in which shift work can be regulated, it may be possible to learn from others and to better promote healthier and safer environments for shift-working individuals and workplaces.