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Am I supposed to pay workers a split shift premium?

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2022 | Employment Law, Firm News |

Split shift schedules can be appropriate for many California businesses. The term “split shift” refers to a work schedule with an unpaid break period longer than the usual lunch or rest period. Under California law, if you have employees who work a split shift, you may need to give them additional pay.

Understanding split shifts and premiums

The additional pay employees receive when they work this type of schedule is a split shift premium. A split shift premium is equivalent to one hour at the state or local minimum wage, whichever is higher.

To qualify as a split shift, a worker must work both shifts in the same workday. Employees only qualify for the additional pay if you require them to work this schedule.

Further, as an employer, you are responsible for keeping track of these shifts and calculating when workers should receive a split shift premium and how much. You must identify the payment as a separate category on a worker’s pay stub; you should not include it with other wages or bonuses.

The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement’s (DLSE) website includes a Frequently Asked Questions section on split shifts.  The website indicates that if an employee is paid above minimum wage, the employee may not be entitled to a full hour of split shift premium.  For example, if minimum wage is $15 per hour and the employee is making $16.00 and works a total of 7 hours, the minimum wage for the workday that includes the split shift is $120 (7 hours times $15 plus an additional $15 for the split shift premium).  If the employee is paid $112 (7 hours times $16), the employee would be due $8 ($120 -$112 = $8) as a differential for working a split shift, according to the DLSE website.

Split shifts make sense for some industries

Split shifts are common in industries such as the restaurant industry. Many restaurants open over lunch, close for the afternoon, and open again for a few hours at dinnertime.

If employees work both the lunch and dinner shifts, with the afternoon off, they may be working a split shift.

However, even if a person works a split shift, you may not be obligated to pay the premium if they volunteer or choose to take the dinner shift.

Why are workers entitled to a split shift premium?

Working a split shift can be tough. California’s split shift law aims to compensate workers for the inconvenience of this type of schedule. If you need or want your employees to do split shifts, you must take the split shift premium into account.

Split shifts could be necessary to keep your business running. As an employer, you should understand the split shift laws so that you can properly compensate workers and avoid legal disputes.