Should you pay employees extra for working unsociable hours?
In recognition of the detrimental effects of working unsociable hours and/or weekends, some employers in the UK decide to offer their staff additional pay—otherwise known as a ‘shift allowance’.
However, in neither scenario is this additional pay legally required.
So how do UK business owners and managers determine if a shift allowance is appropriate for their staff and how much extra pay should be offered?
Below, we look at the key considerations behind the use of shift allowances.
A shift allowance is usually offered in workplaces where employees are expected to work so-called ‘unsociable hours’.
Although there is no statutory definition in British law, it is typically assumed that unsociable hours fall outside the standard 9-to-5 workday, like night shifts, split shifts, early morning shifts and weekend shifts.
Since there is no legal requirement, employers can choose whether or not to offer the financial boost for their staff, but this is usually offered upfront and cemented in the employees’ contracts.
Health and wellbeing
Irregular shift work is known to cause health issues and illnesses, such as sleep disorders, a poor diet and mental health problems including feelings of isolation and depression.
This is because late night working is a major disruption to our natural sleep cycle and our general rhythm.
Working when most people are sleeping or resting can take its toll on staff, as such, many business owners decide to offer a shift allowance in recognition of the detrimental effects working these hours can have.
Offering an attractive financial boost may even mitigate against these alarming health issues, especially when these shifts are spread out evenly.
Managers consigned to creating the weekly schedule also exercise caution when doing so to prevent staff from becoming burnt out with too many unsociable shifts in a row.
With the help of a digital shift management tool, managers can carefully plan these shifts with rest periods to promote a healthy work-life balance.
Working out of hours shifts does also have its benefits: a stress-free (and cheaper) commute, quieter workspace and freedom in the day to go shopping, exercise in empty gyms or run errands are just some of the many perks to working unsociable hours.
Some people simply prefer it—they may be night owls or reject the traditional 9-to-5 after discovering late night working gives them more time to see family and friends or pursue hobbies.
Still, more and more workplaces operate on a 24/7 rota than ever before, meaning even more people are needed to keep production going around the clock.
The demand for staff to fill these positions is not going away any time soon either with more industries now expanding their hours in order to keep up with competitors and to meet the modern era’s unprecedented demand for convenience.
As it currently stands, as many as 3.4 million people in Britain work night shifts, with unsurprisingly, the care sector having the highest number of night workers in the country.
Yet these roles remain notoriously difficult to fill. As such, employers offer a shift allowance to incentivise the role even further.
Since the rate is a voluntary incentive, there is no set rate of pay that employers have to abide by. The specific rate of the shift allowance is at the discretion of the individual employer.
However, the rate is usually around the 20% mark, but some workplaces even generously offer ‘time and a half’ for their staff when working bank holidays.
To name just one example, PCSOs in Gloucestershire receive a 26.5% shift allowance when working unsociable hours on top of their basic salary.
Setting the rota and organising payslips can be complicated, particularly when shift allowance and staff working on a pro-rata basis become factors.
However, it doesn’t need to be a headache: with a simple planning tool, managers can oversee who is due to work when—and prevent staff members from becoming burdened with too many irregular shifts in any given period.
Findmyshift streamlines the entire process and takes the stress out of creating the schedule. Crucially, it allows managers to clearly see who had worked the unsociable hours and therefore who is due to receive a shift allowance top-up in their pay packet.