Clopening Shift: Is It Legal & What Should You Do?

waiters are working clopening shift illustration

Clopening is a common term in retail and hospitality sectors, where businesses close late, open early, and some operate 24/7.

Employees working clopening shifts work the closing shift until late, then arrive at work early the next morning to open the business.

Although this scheduling practice ensures coverage with a smaller staff, it brings several negative effects to both employees and the business.

In this post, we’ll discuss what clopening shifts are and how you can handle them better.

Clopening meaning

Clopening is a scheduling practice in which staff work a closing shift and return the next morning to work an opening shift. The term is a combination of “closing” and “opening”, and it’s also called “clopen”.

Clopening shifts are problematic because employees often have too little time between the closing and opening shifts to rest, sometimes as little as 4 hours. They have to work until late, commute home, get insufficient sleep, and then get up early to go back to work.

waiter working clopening shift illustrations
A waiter working clopening shift

Clopening examples

  • A waiter closes the restaurant at 11:30 pm and opens it at 5 am the next morning.
  • A barista closes the coffee shop at 12 am and opens it at 4:30 am the next morning.
  • A convenience store employee closes the store at 12:30 am and opens it at 4:30 am the next morning.

Industries in which clopening is common

Clopening is common in the retail and hospitality industries whose nature is to open 24/7, or close late and open early. You may see this type of shift scheduling used in restaurants, bars, convenience stores, hospitals, clothing stores, retail stores, gas stations, and so on.

The effects of clopening

Even though there are no official studies on the downsides of clopening, it’s a type of irregular work schedule and it causes sleep deprivation. Irregular schedules and sleep deprivation lead to several negative effects on workers.

Physical and mental health issues

Sometimes, the rest period between the closing and opening shifts is only 4 hours. That means employees barely have time for proper sleep. The lack of sleep may lead to several physical and mental health issues. Employees are more prone to chronic health problems, mood swings, mental illnesses, and so on.

Low morale

With little rest, employees are sleep-deprived, exhausted, and distracted. It’s hard to show a positive and exuberant attitude at work, which is important for customer-facing positions.

Poor job performance

When employees don’t have enough sleep, keeping focus and maintaining a good job performance is difficult. Mistakes and accidents are prone to happen. It can be expensive for a business to deal with employees who perform poorly.

Challenges for work-life balance

Working night and day with too little rest time in between, how can employees find time for childcare and other life commitments? They’ll need a lot of support from employers, family members, or paid services to balance their work and personal lives.

Challenges for employee recruitment, engagement, and retention

The side effects of clopening shifts can make it hard for employers to recruit new hires and retain current employees.

In a competitive labor market, companies with reasonable work schedules are more attractive to job seekers. Candidates tend to shy away from companies notorious for chaotic scheduling. Competent workers can choose a workplace with better conditions and work hours.

Finding and keeping employees who are trustworthy and experienced enough to close and open the business is not easy. Businesses need to find better strategies to retain their people, including creating a better work schedule.

Public criticisms

Businesses with a higher reputation may easily receive criticism from the public if they take employee wellbeing lightly. Starbucks, for example, has been criticized for inconsiderate scheduling practices. It’s important to maintain a good reputation for your business, no matter whether you’re completely new or well-established.

Tips to handle clopening

Although clopening helps ensure coverage and shave labor costs, businesses are beginning to realize how clopening may affect the quality of service, employee productivity, and the bottom line. They’ve gradually shifted their scheduling practices and paid more attention to employee wellbeing.

Let’s look at some tips for handling clopening that have worked for other businesses.

Seek input from employees

Adopting irregular work shifts requires input from employees—people who work those shifts. Managers should ask if employees want to work clopening shifts.

And if there’s a better type of work schedule, you should consider it. Maybe your employees can give some good suggestions.

Establish practices and policies that support employee wellbeing

Employers often overlook practices and policies that support employee wellbeing. But caring about employee wellbeing can help increase engagement and retention, which can save you turnover costs in the long run.

Try these ideas:

  • Provide wellness programs that include sleep health education so employees can be more aware of their sleep hygiene.
  • Set a mandatory rest period between shifts.*
  • Pay higher rates and provide perks for staff working clopening shifts.*

*This is a must in some states.

Clopening shifts actually benefit no one if employees come to work exhausted. If your current staff seem drained, consider hiring some extra people.

Send out schedules in advance

Sending out work schedules in advance allows employees enough time to plan their lives. They can make appointments and personal events ahead of time. They can trade shifts that take place on days when they’re unavailable. They can choose open shifts to work extra hours and earn some more.

There are times when you’re flooded with messages like “I can’t work this Tuesday”, “have you received my time-off request next Monday”, or “can I swap this shift with Tim’s shift”. If you send out schedules too close to when the shift takes place, you may not have enough time to deal with all those questions.

Sending schedules to workers in advance is required in many state laws, so make sure to check the laws.

Offer flexible scheduling options

Offering flexible schedule arrangements such as shift swapping or hybrid work gives employees more control over their lives. To avoid employees swapping shifts with unqualified coworkers or changing their availability at the last minute, you need to set some flexible scheduling policies (for example, a shift swapping policy).

Use modern scheduling solutions

Today’s technology offers lots of digital workforce management solutions where you can maintain a well-planned schedule while ensuring employee wellbeing.

Picking one that meets the needs of both the employer and employees among those options can be challenging. Some criteria you should keep in mind when choosing a solution include:

  • It makes scheduling shifts easy.
  • It supports flexible scheduling options such as choosing open shifts or swapping shifts.
  • It sends alerts when you schedule irregular shifts or when there’s something wrong with work hours (clopens, overtime, back-to-back shifts, etc.).
  • Employees can set their own availability.
shift trade on mobile using Camelo scheduling app
Trade shift on your phone using Camelo scheduling app

Clopening laws

To improve the predictability of work schedules and support employees’ work-life balance, clopening laws have been issued in many states. Is it legal where you are? What are the clopening laws like in different states?

Is clopening legal?

Yes, clopening is legal. There are no official regulations that ban clopenings.

However, some states and cities have laws that restrict the practice of scheduling clopens. Employers must get written consent to schedule workers for clopening shifts. Employees are paid extra for working clopens with less than 10-11 hours of rest in between.

To stay compliant with clopening laws, stay updated on the labor laws of your state or consult with a labor lawyer.

Clopening law in Emeryville, California

In Emeryville, California, employees can decline shifts that occur less than 11 hours after the end of the previous day’s shift. If they agree to take those shifts, they must agree in writing and must be compensated at one-and-a-half times their regular rate for hours worked less than 11 hours following the end of the previous shift.

Clopening law in Seattle, Washington and the state of Oregon

In Seattle, Washington and the state of Oregon, employers can’t schedule clopening shifts with less than 10 hours of rest between them unless the employee requests it or gives consent. Employers must pay employees time-and-a-half for the hours separated by less than 10 hours.

Clopening law in New York City

In New York City, employers can’t schedule clopening with less than 11 hours of rest between shifts unless employees consent in writing and are paid $100 premium.

Scheduling isn’t just about putting people into shifts

Although it’s difficult to ensure coverage, control labor costs, and take care of employees at the same time, scheduling isn’t just about filling out time slots with people’s names.

Reasonable and well-planned work schedules allow employees to get enough rest, show up at work with a positive attitude, provide a better customer experience, and stick around.

It’s impossible to make work schedules that fit the lifestyle of each and every staff. But by taking employee wellbeing into account, scheduling smarter, and using the right scheduling tools such as Camelo, you can keep your business open and fully staffed without driving away competent workers.

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