The Industrial Welfare Commission defines a split shift as a work schedule that is interrupted by a non-paid, non-working period established by the employer that is not a rest or meal period. (See IWC Wage Order No. 5, Section 2). If an employee initiates a break in his or her work schedule for personal reasons (for example, to accommodate childcare or personal business), that interruption is not considered a split shift since the break was not established by the employer.
When an employer requires an employee to work a split shift, the employer must pay the employee a split shift premium, which is one hour’s pay at minimum wage in addition to the employee’s regular earnings paid for that shift. If an employer pays the employee more than minimum wage, the employer is only required to pay the minimum wage rate, not the employee’s regular rate, for the split shift premium. Additionally, if an employer pays the employee more than minimum wage, the excess will be credited toward the split shift premium.
It should be noted that, while the Industrial Welfare Commission’s Wage Orders have not set a required minimum length of time between split shifts, the Department of Labor Standards and Enforcement (DLSE) has historically considered a break longer than one hour to require a split shift premium.
Calculating the split shift premium To illustrate how a split shift premium is calculated, consider the following restaurant employee who works the lunch and dinner shift and makes the current $10.00 minimum wage as of January 2016:
Next consider that the same employee earns $10.75 per hour:
1Next consider that the same employee earns $10.50 per hour:
Points to remember regarding split shifts
An employer is not required to pay an employee a split shift premium if the employee resides at his or her place of employment.
Split shift premiums owed to an employee, if any, do not alter any overtime pay requirements. The split shift premium is not counted as part of the regular rate of pay when computing overtime compensation because it does not reflect hours actually worked.
CRA advises its members to have employees submit a written request when the employee asks to work an interrupted schedule. Although a written request will still fall under close scrutiny from the DLSE in determining whether the request is actually the employer’s attempt to skirt the law, it provides the employer with more protection in an instance where a split shift premium was not paid.
Employers must keep accurate time records which must include start and stop times, meal periods, split shift intervals, and total daily hours worked.
Shift Differentials While many employers choose to pay a small premium (called a “shift differential”) to employees working swing, graveyard or other less desirable shifts, employers are not required by law to pay a shift differential. If an employer does pay a shift differential, it is added to the hourly rate of pay when determining the regular rate of pay.
This report was reviewed for legal accuracy and updated in 2016 by Van Vleck Turner & Zaller LLP.
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