Shift work Definition

Shift work refers to a form of working time in which an employee works at different times of the day or night. The regulations of the temporal procedures are not arbitrary but are regulated by the working time laws. A single shift usually lasts eight hours, unless otherwise agreed in the employment agreement.

Shift work is carried out primarily in three shifts, depending on the holding, also in four or five shifts:

  • Early shift
  • Late shift
  • Night shift
  • The intermediate layer (depending on the operation)

Shift work takes place in companies whose needs include different working time concepts than can be implemented by regular daily working time. In the services sector, this ensures a complete supply. In the production area, cost-saving and efficient work processes can be made possible. Another common term for shift work is shiftwork. This term is particularly applicable in the civil service.

How is shift work paid?

In addition to contractually agreed basic remuneration, additional surcharges are often paid. The amount is not regulated uniformly but is based on the individual employment contract and the internal regulations. The type of shift system is crucial for the calculation. The Working Time Act provides for statutory remuneration only for night work.

Shift work in practice

When implementing concepts of shift work, smooth operations must be ensured by means of an appropriate shift plan. The focus is on minimizing shift-related health risks for the employee and the associated ergonomic work plan design. Health problems that can occur in shifts in connection with long-term work include cardiovascular disease, sleep disorders, and depression.

The following protection criteria are recommended

  1. Shift schedules must be made predictable.
  2. Night shift phases should be kept as short as possible.
  3. After several night shifts, there are at least 24 hours of rest.
  4. Blocked days off at a time are more conducive than more frequent individual days.
  5. Employee wishes (biological clock) must be taken into account when planning.

With regard to roster design, there are different shiftwork models that are geared to the needs of the industry. Businesses that rely on shifts include hospitals and nursing homes, fire and police departments, manufacturing companies, call centers, media companies, and security services.

Discontinuous shift systems are distinguished. The discontinuous mode is a simple two-shift system consisting of early and late shifts and resting at night. The fully continuous system works around the clock, including night work.