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What are split shifts and why do they matter?

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Split shifts occur when two or more shifts in a workday that are separated by non-paid time. If you’ve ever worked in an industry with hourly employees, you might’ve heard people discussing split shifts. This concept shows up a lot when figuring out scheduling for grocery stores, restaurants, and retail. Learning a little about how they work can help you find the best scheduling options for your team. It’s also important to understand these types of shifts because employers can be penalized for putting them on the schedule in certain parts of the US.

What are Split Shifts?

In the workplace, a shift is typically used to refer to a set of hours that most employees work. Typically, a shift is around eight hours. Split shifts happen when you break the employee’s standard work day into two or more nonconsecutive times. For example, if you had an employee work the lunch rush from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then had them come back to handle dinner cleanup from 7 to 11 p.m., that would be a split shift.

Pros and Cons of Split Shifts

Split shifts can be a bit controversial. They can have some pros and cons for both employers and employees. Understanding these perks and problems can help you see why they are the source of so many disagreements.


From a business owner’s perspective, split shifts can be the logical choice. When you’re running a grocery store or coffee shop, you tend to have hours with a lot of customers and hours with almost none. If you stick to traditional shifts, you can end up paying employees to just stand around. For some employees who need unconventional work schedules, splitting up the work day can also offer some extra flexibility.


However, many employees are not a fan of split shifts. Leaving and returning to work can require them to double their commute time without extra payment. Furthermore, the small break between shifts might not be enough time to go to school, care for children, or handle other responsibilities. This can end up causing stress for employees and reducing the quality of service, as unhappy employees can result in arguments between coworkers, slower task completion, or poor interactions with customers.

With all the controversy around fair workweek and labor laws, some state and local governments have chosen to regulate split shifts. There are no federal laws prohibiting them, however. Some places may require an employer to pay premiums whenever an employee works a split shift. Here are a couple of examples of applicable laws in the US:


California defines a split shift as any work schedule that’s interrupted by non-paid time other than typical rest and meal periods during a single workday. Each time a worker has a split shift schedule, they are entitled to a payment that is one hour of their typical wage. So, for example, consider a grocery store worker who earns $10 an hour and works from 10 a.m. to noon and, then, works from 2 to 8 p.m. They would earn $90 total for the workday since they get their regular pay of $80 plus a $10 premium.


Oregon’s split shift laws can result in even higher financial penalties. They require employers to give employees a 10-hour rest period between shifts. Any time the break between shifts does not reach this minimum, employees are entitled to time and a half pay. So if an employee usually makes $80 during an eight-hour work period, splitting their shift would mean you have to pay them $120 instead.

How TimeForge can help you stay labor compliant

Ultimately, split shifts can end up being more of a hassle than a help. If you want to make sure your team’s performance and your labor expenses aren’t affected, TimeForge’s scheduling software is the way to go. Our automated labor compliance lets you set your scheduling policies to avoid putting split shifts on the schedule in the first place. TimeForge can also automatically pay out premiums when circumstances are unavoidable. At the same time, our sales forecasting and labor budgeting tools ensure that you don’t end up scheduling more or fewer workers than you need.

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