Table of contents
  1. What Is a Split Shift?
  2. Why Are Split Shifts a Good Idea?
  3. When Do Split Shifts Not Make Sense?
  4. What Laws Do I Need To Know About?
  5. How Do I Schedule and Record Split Shifts?
  6. Splitting Shifts Can Keep Your Workplace Whole

Scheduling isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Different workers and workplaces have different needs.

If you’re a restaurant serving the local business crowd, maybe you need your most experienced delivery drivers around during the lunch and the evening rush, but not in between. If you manage a utility company, maybe you need more workers first thing and then again during the afternoon, but fewer during the rest of the day.

Split shifts can help with this. Read on for the ultimate guide to split shifts, how they work, and how they could benefit your company.

What Is a Split Shift?

Think of them as a schedule where your workers work, take a few hours off, then come back again to finish their shift. Instead of working straight through a 9-5 day, your employees get to divide their day up, with a period of rest in between chunks of time spent working.

Split shifts are not the same as giving someone time off for lunch or another break. You’ll need to give your employee at least two hours off work to leave the premises.

It’s not a split shift when a worker volunteers to work an extra shift, or if they’re working overtime. Split shifts are a way of dividing up a day of work, and they come with some specific rules (more on those in a bit).

Why Are Split Shifts a Good Idea?

Not every worker needs to be on the job for every hour of the day, so there are some big benefits to split shifts.

  • They help you attract and retain talent. Working a long day isn’t right for everyone. Someone with a chronic medical condition may simply not be able to work for hours without a longer break, for example. When you offer split shifts, you can accommodate many different lifestyles, which can make your organization more attractive to a wider range of workers.
  • They keep your organization productive. A 2014 Stanford University paper shows that workers who work over 50 hours a week see dramatic drops in productivity. With split shifts, you can put your newer and less experienced workers on the job during less demanding times, so they can learn gradually. During rush times, you can schedule your best workers to keep efficiency high.
A night worker in a train yard finishes part of a split shift
  • They give you more control over labor costs. Having the ability to schedule workers only when they’re needed can help you control employee work hours and the associated labor costs.
  • They protect your workers from overwork. Working more than 55 hours per week has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, mental health challenges, and a host of other medical ailments. The chances are your employees don’t actually need to work their hours in a consecutive block, and split shifting might help them enjoy a better work-life balance.
  • They can reduce the time workers need to take off. Medical appointments and many other services are only available during business hours. With split shifts, your employees won’t need to lose paid work time to run errands, and you don’t have to be short-staffed whenever someone needs to visit an orthodontist. That’s a win-win in our book!

When Do Split Shifts Not Make Sense?

If there are no lulls in your workday, split shifting may not have a big payoff. For example, office work typically isn’t suitable for this type of scheduling.

Split shifts might also make communication and collaboration more difficult when team members’ hours do not coincide. 

What Laws Do I Need To Know About?

In some states, you may need to pay your employees extra for split shifts. There are other local and state rules you may need to know about, too. Unions may determine the minimum amount of time between two parts of a shift.

If you’re in California, for example, the State of California Department of Industrial Relations outlines split shift meanings and definitions. In that state, you must pay a split shift premium unless your worker lives on the premises. This premium is one hour of minimum wage pay (local or state minimum wage, whichever is greater) for workers who work at the minimum wage. Workers who work above minimum wage also get a split shift premium, but it’s based on a differential.

Let’s look at an example of how this works in practice. Imagine you run a business offering in-home support care to clients. In California, the minimum wage is $15, and your town does not have its own minimum wage. However, to attract more employees, you’re paying $16 an hour. Let’s also say your worker is working eight hours daily, with a split shift.

First, we determine the difference between their wage and minimum wage over total hours worked. That’s $16 earned minus $15 minimum wage, which is $1 in difference. Multiply the $1 by eight hours worked. That’s $8.

Next, we subtract that number from the state’s minimum wage: $15 – $8 = $7.

So in this case you would pay your employee $7 as a split shift premium, in addition to the wages earned over the day.

New York has its own split shift rules for most service industry workers. There, the split shift premium is an hour at the state’s minimum wage. It only applies if there are over ten hours between the start and end of the workday.

In Oregon, there must be at least ten hours between periods of time worked, or workers are owed time and a half. So if a worker earns $20 per hour and works eight hours, but they have only two hours between two parts of a shift, an employer would have to pay them $240 instead of $160.

In the District of Columbia, workers who don’t live on-site and have split shifts need at least one hour in between periods of work and are paid a split shift premium. This is equal to one hour at the state’s minimum wage.

In Illinois, the Chicago Fair Workweek Ordinance requires covered employees in specific industries (including hotels, healthcare, manufacturing, building services, and others) to have at least ten hours between shifts. However, there are no stipulations on pay with regard to split shifts.

The best way to make sure you’re compliant is to speak with a local labor law attorney before trying split shifts at your business.

How Do I Schedule and Record Split Shifts?

Start by taking stock of factors that could impact split shifts. For example:

  • Commute times. Do your employees live at a distance? Some employees will be happy using the time gap to carry out errands or attend appointments nearby, while others might want to go home in between.
  • Employee commitments. Splitting up the day can be convenient for some, but not for others. If your worker is a student, does a split shift interfere with their class schedule? For parents, does the second half of a split shift interrupt school pickup times? Split shifting requires excellent communication, so talk to your employees about what they’re trying to fit into their day and what kind of schedule works for them.
  • Staffing needs. Map out busy times and lulls for your business. When do you need the most staff and your more experienced workers on hand? Based on your state’s laws, could you create split shifts to accommodate these times, or would two separate shifts work better? Do you only need split shifts during specific busy seasons? The more you can plan ahead and earmark some possibilities for split shifts, the easier it is to work with your staff to make the schedule work for everyone. 

It can be useful to use a scheduling app for your split shifts. Connecteam’s employee scheduling app, for example, lets you see at a glance when team members are available. The app lets you quickly assign shifts and communicate with your employees. You can even set up templates, so if you use split shifts often, you can easily use the same template for your shifts again and again.

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To schedule split shifts, you need to keep careful records. Track hours worked, any split shift premiums paid, and the time in between the split shifts. On pay stubs, any shift premiums need to be clearly marked as such, and not rolled in with wages or classified as anything else. Your employees should also keep a record of this.

Splitting Shifts Can Keep Your Workplace Whole

Split shifts offer plenty of benefits, from happier and healthier workers to a more productive workday.

Using an app that lets you organize split shifts and the rest of your scheduling makes the process of shift-splitting easier, so you can reap all the benefits of this type of workday.

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