In the modern world, business is a 24-hour endeavour and keeping customers happy is a never-ending process. Because of this, many companies have taken to working hours that many consider unsociable. But keeping staff happy (and working for you) when their shifts are during tricky times can be an almost impossible task. This is where shift allowances come in.

Shift allowances allow employers to reward staff who opt to work during unsociable hours or on shifts that are long or have unusual patterns. 

But understanding what a shift allowance is or whether you have an entitlement to receive one can be tricky.

That’s why we’ve compiled this brief guide on shift allowances. In it, we will discuss what a shift allowance is, what the law says about them, as well as how you know if you are entitled to one.

What is a Shift Allowance?

A shift allowance is an extra payment made to an employee because of the shift patterns they work. Often, shift allowances will be given to employees for working unsociable hours, such as during the evening or night. This isn’t the only type of shift allowance available, and some workers will receive extra payments for working weekends, mornings, or longer shifts.

How is a Shift Allowance Paid?

Employers can pay shift allowances in a variety of different ways, including:

  • A flat fee paid on top of standard pay. Employers often give this to employees who work eligible shifts constantly and are repeatedly eligible for a shift allowance.
  • A boost to hourly rates. This is the most common type of shift allowance paid by employers. This method allows them to compensate and reward those who work unsociable shifts. More often than not, employees who are eligible for this type of payment will rotate shifts. This means they will only benefit from the extra money when their shifts are at unsociable times.
  • A percentage of their normal pay rate. Some employers pay an extra percentage of an employee’s standard pay when they work unsociable shifts. The percentage may be set in stone or variable based on the number of unsociable hours worked. This is a more traditional method of paying shift allowances and you may find workers talking about ‘double time’ or ‘time and a half’.

Types of Shift Allowance

As Mentioned Previously, there are several shift allowances available to employees. These include:

  • Night shift allowance. This is paid to employees who work during the night or evening.
  • Shift rotation allowance. Some employers pay staff for rotating between mornings, afternoons, and evenings.
  • Weekend allowance. Some businesses will pay staff extra for working on the weekends.
  • Shift payments for working long or unusual shift patterns. Some employers will pay an additional payment for working long shifts. These shifts generally last for 12 hours or more. An employer may also pay extra for working unusual shift patterns like 4 on and 4 off.

What Are The Legal Rules On Working Unsociable Hours?

The only legal requirement is that employers pay the National Minimum Wage. This was first set out in The National Minimum Wage Act, 1998. There is no legal entitlement for employers to offer increased pay for working unsociable hours. If an employer does pay a shift allowance, they must write the details into contracts of employment. They must also ensure that they administer allowance schemes fairly for all staff, as set out in the Equality Act 2010.

So, What is the Minimum Wage in the UK?

The national minimum wage as of April 2018 is:

  • For those aged 23 and over, the hourly rate is £8.91 (now known as the National Living Wage)
  • For those aged between 21 and 22, the hourly rate is £8.36
  • For those aged between 18 and 20, the hourly rate is £6.56
  • For those aged under 18, the hourly rate is £4.62
  • For apprentices aged between 16 and 18 (or those aged over nineteen, who are in their first year), the hourly rate is £4.30.

How Much Can I Expect to Get as a Shift Allowance?

That depends on the allowance that is being paid. Shift allowances vary from workplace to workplace, and shift to shift. There are no legal requirements for how much an employer pays in shift allowance. The only requirement is that they treat each member of staff fairly.

shift allowance at work

What About Shift Allowance for Those Under 18?

The regulations for young workers are very different to adults and it is more difficult for them to be eligible for shift allowance. Staff aged 16 or 17 at any workplace cannot work between midnight and 4am. On top of this, they cannot work between 10pm and 6am (this can be changed to not working between 11pm and 7am, by contract) in most workplaces, excluding:

  • Agricultural jobs.
  • Cultural, sporting, artistic or advertising activities.
  • Hospital work.
  • Hotel or catering work.
  • Retail work.
  • Post or newspaper delivery.

The law allows them to work at night in exceptional circumstances so long as there is no adult to do the work and they’re required to either:

  • Handle a sudden increase in demand
  • Maintain the continuity of a service or production, e.g., during the making of a film.

If an employer utilises a young worker in the evening, then they must give them a rest period of the same length as the shift.

There are no rules against paying young workers a shift allowance. But it is more difficult for them to work shifts that are eligible to receive it.

As An Employer, Do I Have to Pay a Shift Allowance?

As mentioned previously, no you don’t. Shift allowances are optional payments. You do have to pay at least the national minimum wage to employees but have no legal obligation to pay more.

There may be, however, a necessity to pay additional payments for unsociable hours to keep staff happy and working for your business. Any business who operates during unattractive times will find it hard to find and keep staff if they are not incentivised.

In Conclusion

Working unsociable hours is seldom fun. But the addition of extra pay in the form of a shift allowance can soften the blow.

We hope you’ve found our guide helpful. For more useful workplace information, take a look around our website.

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Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams 🙂

Illustration by Aleksey Chizhikov from Ouch!