waiter working split shift illustration

Split Shift: How It Works & Tips to Handle It

Split shift is a type of schedule where the work day is divided into parts, with a large break in between. It’s ideal for businesses with peak and slow times during the day, as workers take a break during idle hours and return to work during rush hours.

The split shift keeps businesses fully staffed without excessive labor costs. But…it’s not something everyone is fond of.

In this post, we’ll explain what a split shift is and how you can handle it in your business.

What is a split shift?

A split shift is a type of work schedule where you split the work day into two or more shifts, with a long break in between.

The break of a split shift often takes 2 hours or more. The typical 9-to-5 work day with a 1-hour lunch break is not a split shift.

Normally, employees know they’ll be working a split shift when they receive their work schedule. Asking for an extended lunch break won’t turn a normal shift into a split shift.

Split shift examples

A waiter works from 9 am to 2 pm for the first shift, and then comes back to work from 7 pm to 10 pm for the next shift.

A public transport worker works from 7 am to 11 am, takes a break, then returns to work from 3 pm to 7 pm.

These workers still work 8 hours a day, but the shifts are divided by a long break.

split shift example

Does mid-day leave count as split shift?

If an employee suddenly asks for 1 hour off after their lunch break, that counts as time off, not a split shift. The employer can decide to call that a split shift, but oftentimes, split shifts are scheduled days in advance, not at the last minute.

Pros of split shift for employees

Increased work-life balance

The longer mid-day break allows employees to run errands, visit the doctor, pick up their kids, or take care of an ill family member. College students can attend classes during the break.

Workers taking split shifts don’t have to take leaves or lose pay, and they still can fit other life activities into their schedule.

Flexible work hours

If some employees want to work more, the employer can easily arrange those extra hours into the work schedule.

Longer break time

With a longer break time, employees can fully rest and recharge instead of always being in a rush to go back to work.

Extra pay

Many states require employers to pay extra wages for employees working split shifts.

Pros of split shift for employers

Efficient cost control

Split shifts help employers control the staffing and the labor costs of their business more efficiently.

Employers can schedule a big break for employees when the business goes idle. Or they can schedule work hours for non-essential positions only when it’s necessary.

Increased productivity

A decent amount of break time ensures employees aren’t overworked and have enough rest. Being fully rested also helps increase productivity.

Cons of split shift

Commute time

Split shifts are only convenient for employees who live right next door to their workplace. Those spending 40 minutes to over an hour going to work may find commutes a pain because the break doesn’t give them enough time to do anything.

You may need to provide nap rooms or exercise equipment so workers can take naps or use their break time for workouts.

Expanded work day

Employees working split shifts have a longer work day. For example, instead of working from 9 to 5 and having a whole evening off, their work day may be expanded from 9 to 7.

Less sleep

As split shift lengthens the work day, employees may finish their shift late and go to bed late. That may lead to reduced sleep time, and lack of sleep may cause health issues.

Weaker workplace relationships

Finding time to communicate with coworkers can be difficult if employees all work different hours and nobody has the same break time. Although there are various digital communication tools, it may take more time and effort to arrange in-person conversations.

Reduced productivity

The longer break between shifts may make employees lack the energy to go back to work. If they engage in tiring activities during the break, they may be too exhausted to work the next part of the shift.

Complex pay calculations

Calculating split shift pay means payroll work can be complicated very quickly. The quirky laws in some states may make you confused about whether you have to pay someone or not and how much.

Is the split shift suitable for your business?

The split shift is more suitable for businesses with peak and quiet hours such as restaurants, hospitals, call centers, public transport, etc.

You can schedule split shifts so that employees are on duty during rush hours and on break during quiet times. For example, if you run a restaurant, you can schedule a waiter from 11 am to 2 pm to serve the lunch rush and from 7 pm to 11 pm to serve the dinner rush.

Although the split shift is mainly used in the service industry, office and remote workers are beginning to use a split schedule. They can spend the first shift on hard tasks such as writing or coding, and the latter shift on admin and tedious tasks such as emails or meetings.

So, you can use the split shift as long as it suits the ebb and flow of your business. But you should also consider if you have enough tools for scheduling and processing payroll for split shifts, and if your employees are ok with working flexible schedules.

Split shift premium

Split shift premium is the extra wage employees receive when they work split shifts. Whether split shift premiums are paid and how much depends on the local law or the employer.

Split shift premium can be an additional hour of the hourly minimum wage (most common), a percentage of the minimum wage, or a specific number.

For example, an employee can receive 2% of his hourly wage ($11/hour), meaning $11.22 for every split shift hour he works. Another employee can receive an extra 30 cents for each hour of the split shift.

Split shift laws: are split shifts legal?

Split shifts are legal, but there are regulations around split shift pay and the spread of hours between shifts in some states.

California split shift laws

In California, employers must pay an employee working split shift an additional hour of the employee’s salary at the state minimum wage.

But if an employee makes more than the hourly minimum wage, employers may not have to pay this extra hour.

New York split shift laws

In New York, employees working split shifts or shifts longer than 10 hours may be entitled to an extra hour’s pay for the day, at the minimum wage rate in New York.

Washington split shift laws

In Washington, D.C., employees are entitled to an additional hour of split shift pay at the minimum wage rate for the day they work a split shift.

Illinois laws

Although Illinois doesn’t have laws related directly to split shifts, The Fair Workweek Ordinance gives employees the right to decline working shifts starting less than 10 hours after the end of previous day’s shift. But this only applies to employees working in a covered industry and earning $56,381.85 per year (salary) or $29.35 per hour or less.

Ontario laws

In Toronto, Canada, employers have to give employees 8 hours off in between shifts. This doesn’t apply if the total time worked on both shifts is not more than 13 hours.

Even though your states don’t mention anything about split shift premium, you should consider premium wage options for split shift workers. Otherwise, who’s gonna cut 10+ hours of their day for an 8-hour shift if you don’t pay them extra?

Tips for managing split shift

Check the laws

To better understand employment standards, wages, and pay, first familiarize yourself with The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Next, regulations around split shift vary by location, so you need to check the local laws or consult a lawyer before implementing this type of work schedule.

Take employee needs into account

The commute to and from work takes time, effort, and money. Employees may not return home and stay at the workplace to wait for the next shift instead. They may need someone to chill with or something to do during the long break. These needs are essential and affect whether they’ll stick with your business or not.

Mention split shifts early on

To find suitable workers and avoid turnover, inform candidates about working split shifts right from job descriptions or job interviews. This will filter out people who can’t handle this type of shift.

Establish policies

Whenever you implement an irregular type of shift, you should have policies for it. Employees have guidelines to follow, and you know what to do next if relevant problems arise.

Requirements, tools, systems, and procedures related to split shifts should be written in the employee handbook and informed to employees properly.

Keep records

Always keep records of:

  • Start and end times of shifts
  • Total hours worked per day
  • Split shift pay

Keep split shift premium independent

Keep split shift premium independent of overtime, bonus, wage, etc. It should be a separate category in the pay stub.

Better your scheduling system

If your business already runs on another type of schedule, make sure split shifts don’t interfere with the current schedule. You can use pre-made templates or scheduling software to weave split shifts into the current schedule.

With scheduling software like Camelo, employers can quickly add and edit shifts for each employee while taking employee availability and other needs into account. Shift start and end times are recorded on the app, so payroll calculations are easier and more accurate.

Use Camelo for scheduling split shifts in your business today. →

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