What is a Split Shift?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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A split shift is a work schedule where a person's workday is broken up into two or more chunks with spans of unpaid time off between them. One of the most typical examples can be seen among school bus drivers, who work in the morning to drop children off at school, have the late morning and early afternoon off, and return in the afternoon to take children back home. Public transit workers and some factory workers may have this shift schedule, with the goal of increasing employee coverage during peak periods of the day without hiring extra personnel.

For employees, the split shift is usually not desirable. Employees may not have time to do very much during their time off, and could find that their time is eaten up by commuting. It can sometimes be difficult to make arrangements for child care, and in some households, it may be hard to see other people in the house, who may be more active during the periods when people are gone on their split shifts.


Other people may find this type of work schedule appealing. Some people may find it easier to work a few hours, have time off, and then return to work. This gives them the chance to rest, sleep, or run small errands during the middle of the day. The flexibility can also allow people to volunteer or work part time at another job in some cases, using the few hours as an opportunity if they can find a workplace close to their original employer.

Employment law does not bar split shifts and other flexible scheduling. People who work more than a set period of hours in a day or week may be entitled to overtime pay, and this includes people who work longer than expected on a split shift. Employees may receive compensation and benefits for the inconvenience of the split shift, like extra pay or access to a break room for sleeping or relaxing, and some employers ask their personnel to rotate through undesirable shifts so people are not stuck permanently with this type of schedule.

People with concerns about their work schedules can discuss them with human resources and supervisors to see if it is possible to make adjustments. A person with commute trouble, for example, might ask for a change to the timing of a split shift to avoid the worst traffic, or a parent who wants to be home when children get out of school can request a different start time for an afternoon or evening shift to accommodate this need. Employers usually understand that split shifts can be challenging and are often willing to address employee needs.


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Post 4

The horse racing industry functions entirely around split shifts. It is a low paid industry. Much overtime is unaccounted for.

Post 3

In the medical field, split shifts, swing shifts and 12-hour-and-longer shifts are par for the course. I don't know that we ever get used to them, but we accept them and complain sometimes, but when all is said and done we do our jobs.

Post 2

Except in unavoidable emergency situations or in jobs like the school bus driver position mentioned in the article, I would like to see a split shift law regulating how and when the shifts can and cannot be used.

The other exception would be if an employee wanted and asked for a split shift, but as a mandatory work schedule I am against the split shift.

Post 1

With my job, there is much flexibility, and I am able to set my schedule to a point. I have to be in the office in the morning for meetings and then I am usually free to work in my office or clock out and run errands or go home. I have to be back at 5 o'clock to work for at least a couple of hours, depending on what is going on in the office and how much work I have to complete.

As a rule, working split shifts is not attractive to me, but since I am able to mix up the times when I am in the office, I am not adverse to my schedule. Leaving during the middle of the day or in the late morning provides me a chance to break up the work routine, which I enjoy.

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