Broken shifts consist of multiple periods of work in a single day, broken up by unpaid breaks. In this article, we explain the rules around scheduling broken shifts and how to correctly pay your employees for them.

Table of contents
  1. What Is a Broken Shift?
  2. How Is a Broken Shift Paid?
  3. What Is a Broken Shift Allowance?
  4. What Employers Need to Do
  5. Properly Compensating Your Employees for Broken Shifts
  6. FAQs
  7. Disclaimer

In Australia, certain industries like home care, cleaning, and childcare often include broken shifts in their scheduling. But if you use broken shifts, you must have a good understanding of the relevant laws to ensure you create compliant schedules and pay your employees properly. 

This not only keeps your employees satisfied, but it also helps protect your business from lengthy legal proceedings and costly financial penalties.

In this article, we explain how broken shifts work and how to calculate what to pay your employees for them—including broken shift allowances.

Key Takeaways

  • Broken shifts are shifts consisting of multiple periods of work in a single day broken up by 1 or 2 unpaid breaks. 
  • Broken shift laws in Australia apply to certain employees, including those in the home care, cleaning, childcare, and hospitality sectors. These laws set out the rules for scheduling broken shifts and how to pay employees for them.
  • Employers must pay employees who work a broken shift an additional allowance each shift. 
  • These allowances are typically calculated as a percentage of the minimum wage for the relevant industry or as a fixed amount.

What Is a Broken Shift?

According to Fair Work Australia, a broken shift includes several work periods in a single day broken up by 1 or 2 unpaid breaks—not including meal breaks. 

Where an employee has 1 unpaid break, their broken shift consists of 2 work periods. If an employee has 2 unpaid breaks, their broken shift consists of 3 work periods. 

For example, if a disability carer works with one client from 9:30 am to 11:30 am and then with another client from 3 pm to 6 pm on the same day, this is a broken shift. This example includes 2 work periods with 1 unpaid break in between. 

Broken shifts are similar to the concept of a split shift. However, broken shift laws only exist in Australia and only apply to employees in certain industries. These include:

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 In addition to broken or split shifts, you can use a range of different types of shifts to suit your business and employees’ needs. Find out more in our article on the 11 types of work shifts your business might need.

Broken shift rules

The specific broken shift rules for an industry are set out in the relevant award

An award is a legal document that sets out the minimum working conditions and pay for employees in a specific sector.

The exact requirements for broken shifts vary between awards. Each award may address:

  • The maximum span of a broken shift
  • The minimum break required between work periods
  • Whether an employer must seek an employee’s agreement before scheduling them for a broken shift
  • How to pay employees for broken shifts, including any allowances

For example, under the SCHADS award, employers don’t need to seek an employee’s agreement to schedule them for a broken shift with only 1 break. However, an employee must agree to work a broken shift with 2 breaks, either before their shift starts or as part of an agreed regular pattern of work. 

There’s no mandatory minimum amount of time between work periods in a broken shift under the SCHADS award. But employers must give employees a minimum 10-hour break between consecutive broken shifts.

Under the Cleaning Services Award, a broken shift consists of 2 work periods with more than 1 hour’s break between them, within a maximum spread of 13 hours. 

The Children’s Services Award defines a broken shift as when an employee works 2 separate shifts in a day. 

How Is a Broken Shift Paid?

When paying a worker for a broken shift, employers generally must pay employees for the hours they work—or in some cases, a minimum payment period—plus an allowance

They must also pay, if applicable:

  • Weekend and public holiday penalty rates
  • Overtime
  • Shift allowances, including afternoon, evening, and public holiday shifts
  • Casual loading—additional pay to compensate casual workers for the uncertainty of their schedules

Exactly what employees must be paid for broken shifts is set out in the relevant award. 

Example: SCHADS award

Under the SCHADS award, the employer must pay employees for the hours they work across a broken shift or the minimum payment period, if it applies—whichever is greater. 

For part-time and casual employees, the minimum payment period is 2 hours. This means these employees must be paid at least 2 hours’ pay for each period worked in a broken shift, even when they work fewer hours. 

The minimum payment period applies to all work periods in a broken shift. For example, if a home care employee works 1.5 hours, 1 hour, and a further 1.5 hours in a day, they must be paid 2 hours for each of these periods. 

If a break in work falls within a minimum payment period, it counts as time worked. Travel time during the minimum payment period counts and is paid as time worked. 

A broken shift covers a 12-hour span. If the employee works more than this in a single broken shift, they must be paid double their minimum hourly wage for any time above 12 hours. 

What Is a Broken Shift Allowance?

In addition to paying employees for the hours they work during a broken shift, employers must also pay them an allowance. This is a one-off payment for each broken shift an employee works. Its purpose is to compensate workers for the inconvenience of stopping and restarting work in a single day. 

The relevant industry award sets out specific allowances for broken shifts. 

For example, under the SCHADS award, an employee’s allowance varies depending on the number of breaks in the broken shift:

  • For broken shifts with 1 break, the allowance is 1.7% of the standard rate per shift.
  • For 2 breaks, the allowance is 2.25% of the standard rate per shift.

The standard rate is the minimum wage for a social and community services employee (level 3, pay point 3). Currently, the broken shift allowance for shifts with 1 break is $18.34 AUD and $24.27 AUD for 2 breaks.

Looking at other awards:

  • The daily allowance for broken shifts under the Children’s Services Award is 1.91% of the standard rate—i.e., the minimum weekly rate for a Children’s Services Employee level 3.1.
  • Under the Cleaning Services Award, the broken shift allowance per shift is $3.96 AUD, up to a maximum of $19.81 AUD per week.
  • Under the Hospitality Industry (General) Award, parttime and full-time employees are entitled to $3.10 AUD a day where the break period is 2 to 3 hours, and $4.70 AUD a day where the break period is more than 3 hours.
  • The daily allowance for broken shifts under the Fitness Industry Award is $15.19 AUD.

Allowances for broken shifts typically count towards employees’ gross wages and employers must withhold the necessary tax. 

💡Pro Tip

Use Fair Work Australia’s Pay and Conditions Tool to help calculate employees’ pay, including allowances for broken shifts.

What Employers Need to Do

As an employer, there are several steps you can take to fulfil your responsibilities around broken shifts. 

Understand your obligations

It’s important to get broken shifts right. If you don’t follow the rules around scheduling broken shifts and paying employees, you may face legal action and significant financial penalties. 

Speak to your in-house legal team or an employment lawyer to identify any employees covered by the broken shift provisions in a relevant award. Awards can be complex documents and some of the broken shifts provisions are relatively recent. A lawyer can ensure you understand the award and how it applies to scheduling and paying your employees for broken shifts. 

Check your employment contracts

Review all your current employment contracts to ensure they comply with the requirements around broken shifts. 

This is especially important for employees covered by the SCHADS award, as several of the broken shift provisions under this award came into effect in 2022. You should then review any employment contract signed before 2022 and update them to comply with the relevant broken shift laws. 

Use a digital scheduling and time-recording app

To ensure you pay your employees correctly, it’s essential you keep an accurate record of their schedule and hours. This is especially important for keeping track of hours worked during broken shifts. 

Using a scheduling and time-recording app like Connecteam makes this simple and stress-free. It reduces the risk of errors that can be made when recording hours manually and keeps the information in a central location. Time data can then be easily exported to your payroll system to quickly and accurately calculate broken shift pay and allowances. 

🧠 Did You Know?

Connecteam can help you record broken shifts and correctly calculate broken shift allowances. With a free-for-life small business plan and flexible paid subscriptions, Connecteam is an ideal way for businesses of all sizes to manage their workforces.

Get started with Connecteam for free today!

Properly Compensating Your Employees for Broken Shifts

If you’re an Australian employer who uses broken shifts in your employees’ rosters, it’s crucial to understand the relevant broken shift laws. The relevant industry awards set out the rules for scheduling broken shifts and paying your employees for them. 

Knowing when you can and can’t use broken shifts and when you owe your employees an allowance ensures you pay them correctly and comply with your legal obligations. 

The best way to keep track of broken shifts and allowances is to use a scheduling and time-recording app, like Connecteam. This helps you accurately calculate allowances for broken shifts to ensure your employees are paid properly each time. 

Get started with Connecteam for free today!


Is super payable on broken shift allowance?

Allowances for broken shifts are generally considered ordinary time earnings for the purposes of superannuation payments. 

Is a sleepover a broken shift? 

No. A sleepover—where a care worker remains at their client’s premises overnight—does not count as a break for the purposes of a broken shift. The allowance for sleepovers is also different from the allowance for broken shifts. 


The information presented on this website about broken shifts is intended to be an overview for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. Laws and regulations regularly change and may vary depending on individual circumstances. While we have made every effort to ensure the information provided is up-to-date and reliable, we cannot guarantee its completeness, accuracy, or applicability to your specific situation. Therefore, we strongly recommend that readers seek guidance from their legal department or a qualified lawyer to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Please note that we cannot be held liable for any actions taken or not taken based on the information presented on this website.

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