Glossary of Shift Work Terms

It should be stressed that there are no standard terms for describing the various aspects of shift work. Instead there are a variety of terms that vary from organization to organization. Moreover, frequently different words are used to describe the same thing, and often they are used interchangeably.

The list that follows is by no means comprehensive. However, it does cover most of the terms in common use. It highlights those words and phrases that have two, or more meanings, and instances where different words or phrases are used to describe the same thing.

A

Abnormal hours.
Hours of work rostered outside the traditional Monday to Friday Day shift. It is a relative concept that changes with the passage of time. As society has developed, so perceptions of what hours are abnormal have changed. Thus, hours that were considered abnormal twenty years ago, are not necessarily so now.
Synonymous with: Non-standard hours/shifts. Unsocial hours.
Accounting period.
The period of time during which all, or a proportion of, surplus employee hours available can be utilized. The most common periods, either individually or in combination, are a month, a quarter or a year.
Synonymous with: Reconciliation period. Settlement period.
Afternoon shift.
A period of work that starts after mid-day and normally finishes before midnight. For example, 14.00 to 22.00, or 15.00 to 23.00. Normally used for shifts of approximately 8hrs.
Synonymous with: Back shift. Late shift.
Alternating days and nights.
Most commonly, a pattern of discontinuous working time in which an employee's time at work alternates between day shifts and night shifts. Occasionally it is applied to some types of continuous rota. The phrase is used to describe four different patterns of working time. Namely;
  1. Separate shifts.
    Rotas in which there are gaps between successive shifts worked. For example, with two rostered 8hr shifts a day, within each 24hr period there are 4hr gaps between the end of the Day shift and the start of the Night shift. Also there is a 4hr gap between the end of the Night shift and the start of the Day shift.
  2. Linked Nights to Days.
    Rotas in which Night shift is butt-ended with the following Day shift, and there is a gap from the end of the Day shift until the start of the next Night shift. For example, with two rostered 8hr shifts a day. There is a period a 16hrs cover from the start of the Night shift to the end of the Day shift, followed by an 8hr gap until the start of the next Night shift.
  3. Linked Days to Nights.
    Rotas in which Day shift is butt-ended with the following Night shift, and there is a gap from the end of the Night shift until the start of the next Day shift. For example, with two rostered 8hr shifts a day. There is a period a 16hrs cover from the start of the Day shift to the end of the Night shift, followed by an 8hr gap until the start of the next Day shift.
  4. Continuous.
    No gap between successive rostered Day and Night shifts. Could be continuous system providing 24hrs cover for seven days a week, or a semi-continuous system providing periods of continuous cover for less than seven days a week.
Alternating shift system.
Patterns of working time during which the timing of an employees hours of work change on a rostered basis. Often used to describe situations in which there are just two types of shift, although occasionally it is used to describe rotas in which there is a rotation through three, or more, types of shift.
Synonymous with: Rotating shift system.
Annual hours agreements.
Agreements in which the all attendance time and absence, including holiday entitlements are planned out on an annual basis. They frequently cover not only the pattern of working time, but pay and other types of remuneration.
Annual hours rotas.
A rota in which the pattern of working time is planned out for a 12 month period. In practice, in order to ensure an equitable balance of extended rest periods, rotas are frequently generated for a run of years, say, five.
Annual leave.
Time off work an employee is due over a twelve month period. Can be expressed as a number of hours, days or weeks. The entitlement is normally calculated by reference to a holiday year which may, or may not, be in alignment with the calendar year. Frequently, but not always, excludes public/bank holidays.
Synonymous with: Holiday entitlement. Leave entitlement.
Annual salary.
Pay for a twelve month period. Normally the calendar year, but not necessarily so.
Anti-clockwise rotation.
A pattern of work in which the starting time of successive rostered shifts, or blocks of rostered shifts, changes in an anti-clockwise direction. For example, with a three (8hr) shifts a day system, generating 24hrs cover for 7 days a week, and shifts worked in blocks of six;
  1. Within a block of shifts.
    Two Night shifts followed by two Afternoon shifts and then two Morning shifts.
  2. Across blocks of shifts.
    A block of six Night shifts is followed by a block of six Afternoon shifts and then six Morning shifts.

Synonymous with: Backward rotation, Counter clockwise rotation.

B

Back to back shifts.
Two successive rostered shifts worked by the same person within a 24hr period.
Synonymous with: Double shift.
Back shift
A period of work that starts after mid-day and normally finishes before midnight. For example, 14.00 to 22.00, or 15.00 to 23.00. Normally used for shifts of approximately 8hrs.
Synonymous with: Afternoon shift. Late shift.
Backward rotation.
A pattern of work in which the starting time of successive rostered shifts, or blocks of rostered shifts, changes in an anticlockwise direction. For example, with a three (8hr) shifts a day system, generating 24hrs cover for 7 days a week, and shifts worked in blocks of six;
  1. Within a block of shifts.
    Two Night shifts followed by two Afternoon shifts and then two Morning shifts.
  2. Across blocks of shifts.
    A block of six Night shifts is followed by a block of six Afternoon shifts and then six Morning shifts.
Synonymous with: Anti-clockwise rotation, Counter clockwise rotation.
Bank holiday.
Time off, normally additional to annual leave, on specific days. The timing of which is frequently determined by religious events or national historical events.
Synonymous with: Public holiday.
Banked hours/time.
Two different meanings. Namely;
  1. Additional to the rota.
    Hours, over and above those shown on the basic shift rota that the employee may, but not necessarily will, be required to work.
    Synonymous with: Commitment hours. Owed hours. Pay back hours/shifts. Reconciliation hours/shifts.
  2. Within the rota.
    Time worked, but not paid for. Often derived from the difference between average rostered hours and normal basic hours. In most cases the excess of the former over the latter is banked, and taken as time off. Occasionally, the time accrued is traded-in for a cash payment.
    Synonymous with: Lieu time.
Basic rate of pay.
Two different usages. Namely:
  1. The basic rate of pay prior to any additions.
    It excludes shift premia, overtime payments and all other additions and allowances. It can be expressed on an hourly, weekly monthly or annual basis, although most frequently the former.
    Synonymous with: Plain time rates.
  2. Consolidated rates of pay.
    The consolidated rate of pay for working a particular pattern of working time. Frequently used in annual hours systems to describe total remuneration. It incorporates all types of remuneration in one basic salary. That is, although no longer separately identified, it can, and frequently does cover remuneration for basic hours worked, holiday pay, shift premia, contractual overtime, payments for working on public holidays, reserve hours, etc,.
Block of shifts.
Period of time during which shifts are worked on successive days. There are one or more, rest days on either side of each block of shifts.
Biological rhythm.
Biological or physiological functions that occur on a regular basis. Covers all rhythms of this type, not just those based on a 24hr cycle.
Body clock.
The way in which the body regulates its biological rhythms or cycles.
Butt-ended shifts.
Successive periods of working time that follow each other without either a break or an overlap.

C

Calendar Year.
Period of 12months beginning at a given date. For example it is frequently defined as “the period of twelve months beginning with the 1st January in any year.”
Call-out pay.
Additional payment made for returning to work during a rostered rest period.
Call out rota.
A rota that runs alongside the basic rota showing who is liable to be called in, and when, if there is a shortfall in staffing levels on a rostered shift.
Synonymous with: Cover rota. Shadow rota. Stand-by rota.
Carryover.
Surplus or deficit employee hours available brought forward from one accounting period to the next. Normally on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Changeover.
When one group of employees/shift is replaced by another. May be butt-ended, or include an overlap.
Synonymous with: Handover, Shift change.
Circadian rhythm.
Regular fluctuations in the bodies natural processes that are approximately attuned to a 24hr cycle.
Clockwise rotation.
A pattern of work in which the starting time of successive rostered shifts, or blocks of rostered shifts, changes in a clockwise direction. The rotation can occur either within or across blocks of shifts. For example, with a three (8hr) shift a day system, generating 24hrs cover for 7 days a week, and shifts worked in blocks of six;
  1. Within a block of shifts.
  2. Two Morning shifts followed by two Afternoon shifts and then two Night shifts.
  3. Across blocks of shifts.
  4. A block of six Morning shifts is followed by a block of six Afternoon shifts and then a block of six Night shifts.
Synonymous with: Forward rotation.
Commitment hours.
Hours, over and above that shown on the basic shift rota that the employee may, but not necessarily will, be required to work
Synonymous with: Banked hours/time. Owed hours. Pay back hours/shifts. Reconciliation hours/shifts.
Compressed working week.
Patterns of working time in which a given level of working time is provided in fewer days. For example, instead of working a 40hr week as 8hr shifts over five days, working four 10hr shifts in four days.
Continental shift system.
In the UK, patterns of working time in which all types of shift are worked within each block of shifts. For example in continuous systems where three (8hr) shifts a day are worked, and shifts are worked in blocks of six, each block comprises two Morning, two Afternoon and two Night shifts.
Synonymous with: Quick rotation. Fast rotation. Rapid rotation.
Continuous shift work.
Patterns of working time that provide 24hrs cover a day, for 168hrs (7 days) a week, throughout the shift cycle.
Contractual hours.
Time an employee is contractually committed to be at work. Includes normal basic hours plus any contractual overtime. Can be defined in terms of a week, average hours over the shift cycle, or annually.
Contractual overtime.
Contracted time over and above that specified for a full-time employee. Overtime that is an integral part of the agreed shift rota, or other pattern of working time, and as such it has to be worked.
Counter-clockwise rotation.
A pattern of work in which the starting time of successive rostered shifts, or blocks of rostered shifts, changes in an anti-clockwise direction. For example, with a three (8hr) shifts a day system, generating 24hrs cover 7 days a week, and shifts are worked in blocks of six;
  1. Within a block of shifts.
    Two Night shifts followed by two Afternoon shifts and then two Morning shifts.
  2. Across blocks of shifts.
    A block of six Night shifts is followed by a block of six Afternoon shifts and then six Morning shifts.
Synonymous with: Anti-clockwise rotation, Backward rotation.
Core time.
In a flexible working hours system/rota, time when the employee must be at work.
Cover.
The hours of work generated by a particular pattern of working time. It can refer to the level of cover generated a week, over the shift cycle, during the calendar year, or throughout a run of years.
Cover rota.
A rota that runs alongside the basic rota showing who is liable to be called in, and when, if there is a shortfall in staffing levels on a rostered shift.
Synonymous with: Call out rota. Shadow rota. Stand-by rota.
Crew.
The people present on any rostered period of work. Can range from one person to any number of people you care to specify.
Synonymous with: Set, Shift, Team.
Customary holiday entitlement.
Time off work established by custom and practice. Normally, although not invariably, defined as additional to annual and public/bank holiday entitlements.
Cycle.
Two usages,
  1. Based on weeks.
    The number of complete weeks it takes before the pattern of work repeats.
  2. Based on days.
    The number of days it takes before the pattern of work repeats
The first is the most commonly occurring, but on occasions the latter will be used. The first definition has the advantage that over a shift cycle each team/employee will work the same number of social and unsocial hours, and these will be equitably distributed over the days in a week. That is, each employee will work, say, the same number of Saturday Night shifts. Equity over the days in the week does not necessarily occur with the second definition.

D

Day.
A period of 24hrs, normally beginning at midnight.
Day shift.
In its broadest sense, any period of work that covers mid-day. However, depending upon the context and the type of shift system used, it means slightly different things. Some of the main usages are.
  • Daily hours worked by non-shift workers. For example, 09.00 to 17.00 on a Monday to Friday.
  • In systems based on two (12hr) shifts a day. The shift that covers the period either side of mid-day. Frequently 06.00 to 18.00 or 07.00 to 19.00.
  • In systems based on three (8hr) shifts a day. The shift that incorporates mid-day. For example 06.00 to 14.00.
  • In continuous systems with an integrated Day shift. The period of double cover.
Day shift worker.
Employees who are normally permanently employed on Day shifts. Traditionally used for employees who only work on the five weekdays. (Monday to Friday) Increasingly used to refer to employees who work Day shifts on any number of days in the week, including weekends.
Day worker.
An employee who only works on what an organization defines as the Day shift
Deficit hours.
In a comparison between employee hours required to operate a shift rota, and employee hours available to do so, can be used in two ways. Namely;
  • Deficit of employee hours available. A measure of the additional cover required per employee to operate the shift rota.
  • Deficit of production hours required. A measure of the extent to which the rota does not utilize all employee hours available.
In most cases it means the former, less frequently the latter.
Direction of rotation.
Where the pattern of work results in employees working shifts with different start and finish times, the sequence in which the latter occur relative to the movement of the clock. That is, the order in which rotating shifts are worked, either within or across blocks of shifts, by an employee and/or team.
Synonymous with: Sequence of rotation.
Discontinuous shift system.
Patterns of working time, which generates cover for less than 24hrs a day.
Synonymous with: Non-continuous shift system.
Diurnal.
Work and other activities that take place during the day. The opposite of nocturnal.
Double day shift.
A discontinuous shift system that does not cover the Night shift. For example, a rota that generates 16hrs cover a day based on a 06.00 - 14.00 Early shift and a 14.00 - 22.00 Late shift. Cover can be provided on any number of days a week.
Double jobbing.
The practice of holding more than one job.
Synonymous with: Moonlighting.
Double shift.
Two successive rostered shifts worked by the same person within a 24hr period.
Synonymous with: Back to back shifts.
Duty.
Two main usages.
  1. General.
    Any scheduled or unscheduled period of time at work.
  2. Specific.
    The rostered period of time at work on any one occasion.
Synonymous with: Shift.

E

Early shift.
Period of work which starts prior to the traditional Monday to Friday Day shift. The majority of hours are worked before mid-day. For example 06.00 - 14.00 or 07.00 to 15.00. Normally used for shifts of approximately 8hrs.
Synonymous with: Morning shift.
Eight hour shifts.
Rostered time at work that is approximately of 8hrs duration. Due to the ease of divisibility into 24hrs, one of the most common shift lengths.
Evening shift.
Two main usages.
  1. General.
    Any period of work, regardless of duration, that starts in the late afternoon.
  2. Specific.
    A short shift that starts in the late afternoon, early evening, and normally ends before mid-night. For example, 17.00 to 21.00
Synonymous with: Twilight shift.
Extended duty.
Additional hours worked at the end of, or prior to, a rostered shift.
Extended shifts.
Two main definitions.
  1. General.
    Any shifts where rostered hours are longer than those normally worked.
  1. Cover provision.
    Shifts whose length has been extended to provide cover for colleagues on adjoining shifts who are absent. For example, in shift systems based on three (8hr) shifts a day. If an employee on the Afternoon shift fails to turn up for work, an employee on the preceding Morning shift stays at work for an additional 4hrs, and an employee on the following Night shift come in 4hrs early. Effectively extending the two adjacent shifts from 8hrs to 12hrs provides absence cover for the Afternoon shift.
Extended rest periods.
In an annual hours rota, longer blocks of rest days generated by flexing the pattern of working time at selected times during the year, without reducing the level of cover available.

F

Fast rotation.
A pattern of working time in which all types of shift are worked within each block of shifts. For example, in continuous systems where three (8hr) shifts a day are worked, and shifts are worked in blocks of six, each block comprises two Morning, two Afternoon and two Night shifts.
Synonymous with: Continental shift system. Quick rotation. Rapid rotation.
Five day rotas.
Any pattern of working time that covers five days a week. However, within the five days it is not necessarily the case that all 24hrs a day are covered; the number of hours rostered a day is constant; or the number of people present on each rostered shift is the same. The days not covered by the rota are frequently, but not invariably, Saturday and Sunday. The timing of the two days off can be from midnight to midnight, but more frequently it is linked to shift start and finish times. For example, from 22.00 Friday to 22.00 Sunday, or 06.00 Saturday to 06.00 Monday.
Five team/crew/set/shift rotas.
A pattern of working time in which the labour force is split into five groups of employees. Between them these five groups cover all rostered shifts. However, each individual team/crew/set/shift may, or may not, work all types of rostered shift.
Five-and-a-half team/crew/set/shift rota
A pattern of working time in which the labour force is split into eleven groups of employees, two of which, but not necessarily the same two, are present on each rostered shift.
Five team/crew/set/shift, rotating.
A pattern of working time in which the work force is divided into five groups. Each team/crew/set/shift, rotates across all types of rostered shift.
Fixed shifts.
Shifts whose start and finish times do not change from day to day. The shifts can be worked over any number of days in the week. Normally applied to the individual types of shift within a fixed, non-rotating, shift system.
Synonymous with: Non-rotating shifts. Permanent shifts. Regular shifts.
Fixed shift system.
A pattern of work in which the overall level of cover required is provided by a series of fixed shifts. For example with seven day continuous four team rota, based on two (12hr) shifts a day, two teams are permanently allocated to Nights, the other two to Days. Thus, for each team/employee not only is there no rotation within each block of shifts, but no rotation across blocks of shifts.
Synonymous with: Non-rotating shift system. Permanent shift
system.
Flat rate premia.
Premium payments for working shifts, that are the same for all employees regardless of grade or salary. Payments described as unsocial hours premia are often, although not invariably, of this type. It is argued that it is equally unsocial for an unskilled as a skilled employee to work hours outside the traditional Monday to Friday Day shift. As a consequence, the monetary value of the financial compensation for both types of employee, should be the same.
Flextime agreement.
An agreement in which the worker can determine when they will be at work. Frequently working time is divided into two parts, core time when the employee must be present, and flexible time during which the employee can work those hours best suited to their individual circumstances and needs.
Flexible time.
In a flexible working time system, a band of hours, usually adjacent to core time, when an employee can choose what hours to work.
Floating holiday.
In annual hours agreements, that part of the holiday entitlement that has not been rostered. Subject to staffing constraints there is an element of choice on when it can be taken.
Forward rotation.
A pattern of work in which the starting time of successive rostered shifts, or blocks of rostered shifts, changes in a clockwise direction. The rotation can occur either within or across blocks of shifts. For example, with a three (8hr) shift a day system, generating 24hrs cover for 7 days a week, and shifts worked in blocks of six;
  1. Within a block of shifts.
  2. Two Morning shifts followed by two Afternoon shifts and then two Night shifts.
  3. Across blocks of shifts.
  4. A block of six Morning shifts is followed by a block of six Afternoon shifts and then six Night shifts.

Synonymous with: Clockwise rotation.
Four team/crew/set/shift rota.
Two alternative definitions
  1. Time based.
    A pattern of working time in which each 24hr period is split into four shifts. The most commonly occurring division is four shifts of 6hrs, although provided they add up to 24hrs, other shift lengths are feasible. The cover required can be generated by any number of teams.
  2. People based.
    A pattern of working time in which the labour force is split into four groups of employees. Between them these four groups cover all types of rostered shift. However, each individual team/crew/set/shift, may, or may not, work all types of rostered shift.
Four-and-a-half team/crew/set/shift rota
A pattern of working time in which the labour force is split into nine groups of employees, two of which, but not necessarily the same two, are present on each rostered shift.
Four team/crew/set/shift fixed.
A pattern of working time in which there are two shifts a day, and the work force is divided into four groups, two of whom permanently work one type of shift, and two the other. For example in a continuous system providing 24hrs cover for 7 days a week, two teams work Permanent (12hr) Nights the other two work Permanent (12hr) Days.
Four team/crew/set/shift rotating.
A pattern of working time in which the work force is divided into four groups. Each team/crew/set/shift rotates across all types of rostered shift.
Frequency of rotation.
A measure of the frequency of the change, either within or across blocks of shifts, from one type of shift to another.
Synonymous with: Speed of rotation.
Full-time employee/worker.
Employees who work a full working week. The exact number of hours this entails varies from organization to organization. For shift workers full time hours are frequently averaged out over the relevant shift cycle.

G

H

Habitual overtime.
Regular time worked over and above that specified for a full-time employee which is in theory voluntary, but in practice is an integral part of each employee’s hours of work.
Handover.
When one group of employees is replaced by another. May be butt-ended, or include an overlap.
Synonymous with: Changeover. Shift change.
Holiday entitlement.
Time off work an employee is due over a specified period of time. Often, but not always, the entitlement is calculated by reference to a twelve month period. Where this is the case, it is synonymous with Annual Leave. Can be expressed as a number of hours, days or weeks. May, or may not, include public/bank/customary holidays.
Synonymous with: Leave entitlement.
Holiday rota.
A rota that runs through planned holiday shutdowns. Its purpose is to show who would be called in, and when, if cover is required during the shutdown.
Synonymous with: Shadow rota.
Holiday year.
Twelve month period over which the annual holiday entitlement accrues.
Homogeneous blocks.
A shift pattern in which all the shifts worked between two rest periods are of the same type. That is, there is no rotation within each block of shifts.
Synonymous with: Non-rotating blocks.
Hybrid shift systems.
Rotas in which shifts are of different lengths. Usually a combination of 8hr and 12hr shifts, but could entail other combinations. There are two basic types. Namely:
  1. Variation by day in the week.
    A change in shift length by day in the week. For example, with a continuous system generating 24hrs cover for seven days a week, a switch from three, 8hr, shifts a day on a weekday, to two, 12hr, shifts a day at weekends. The net result of the switch, is to increase the numbers of weekend days off over the shift cycle.
  2. Variation by time of year.
    A change in shift length at specific times in the year. Normally confined to annual hours rotas which have one or more sub-rotas generating extended rest periods. For example, with a continuous system generating 24hrs cover seven days a week, a switch from three, 8hr, shifts a day during the basic rota, to a sub-rota based on two, 12hr, shifts a day during the Summer. This sub-rota generating one extended rest period of at least two weeks per team/employee. The net result of the switch, is to offset the reduction in the rest period between blocks of shifts that would have occurred if 8hr shifts had been worked throughout the Summer period.

I

Inconvenience payment.
Additional payments made for the inconvenience of working a shift system. The level of payment may change with the perceived level of inconvenience. Whilst it incorporates payment for unsocial hours working, it can cover other forms of inconvenience, such as the need to rotate and/or the speed of rotation within or across blocks of shifts. Thus, whilst it can be synonymous with unsocial hours premia and/or shift premia, this is not necessarily the case.
Integrated Days.
Rotas in which a Day shift is integrated into another pattern of working time. All teams rotate through all types of shift, and effectively there is double cover on the Day shift. For example, a five team continuous shift rota in which double cover (two teams are present) is generated on Monday to Thursday between 08.00 and 16.00. Alternatively, a six team continuous rota in which double cover is generated between 08.00 and 16.00 for all seven days a week.
Irregular blocks.
Blocks of shifts, the duration of which, is not the same on each occasion. For example, patterns of work in which shifts are worked in blocks covering both two and three successive days.
Irregular shifts.
Shifts whose duration or incidence varies on an erratic basis.

J

Job share shifts.
Shift systems in which rostered working time is split between two employees. Can be based on various divisions of rostered working time, and can be used for any shift pattern, including continuous shift systems. For example, with a continuous system generating 24hrs cover seven days a week, based on two, 12hr, shifts a day, rostered shifts are shared between two employees as follows. For each block of rostered Day shifts one employee works the first half of each shift, the other the second half. Blocks of Night shifts can be split in a similar way. Alternatively, each employee can work every other block of Night shifts in turn.

K

L

Late shift.
A period of work that starts after mid-day and normally finishes before midnight. For example, 14.00 to 22.00, or 15.00 to 23.00. Normally used for shifts of approximately 8hrs.
Synonymous with: Afternoon shift, Back shift.
Leave entitlement.
Time off work an employee is due over a specified period of time. Often, but not always, the entitlement is calculated by reference to a twelve month period. Where this is the case, it is synonymous with Annual Leave. Can be expressed as a number of hours, days or weeks. May, or may not, include public/bank/customary holidays.
Synonymous with: Holiday entitlement.
Lieu time.
Time worked, but not paid for. Often derived from the difference between average rostered hours and normal basic hours. In most cases the excess of the former over the latter is banked, and taken as time off. Occasionally, the time accrued is traded-in for a cash payment.
Synonymous with: Banked hours.
Linkage to pay.
How shift premia expressed in percentage terms, are linked to pay. There is no set method of doing this. For example, they can be calculated as a percentage of plain time rates; a particular point on an incremental scale; the basic rate for a particular grade (not necessarily that of the individual employee); consolidated rates that include overtime and/or weekend premia; etc. The net result is that although two groups of employees may have the same nominal percentage shift premium, for working an identical pattern of working time, the monetary value of the overall payment they receive can, and frequently does, vary significantly.

M

Meal breaks.
One, or more, breaks taken between the start and finish times of each rostered period at work. Their primary purpose is to allow employees to have a main meal; (breakfast/lunch/dinner) and they are normally longer than tea, or other breaks. They can be paid or unpaid.
Mixed rotation.
Within blocks of shifts, patterns of rotation that do not cover all types of shift within the overall rota. For example, with seven day continuous rotas based on three (8hr) shifts a day, in addition to no rotation, there are three further main types of rotation within blocks of shifts. Namely, a forward (MAN) rotation, a semi-backward rotation (MNA), or a backward (NAM) rotation. Mixed rotations occur when there is either two or more of these various types of rotation within the overall rota; all or some blocks of shifts do not contain all types of shift; or, some combination of the two. Mixed rotations are most prevalent with hybrid systems that incorporate a combination of three (8hr) and two (12hr) shifts a day.
Moonlighting.
The practice of holding more than one job.
Synonymous with: Double jobbing.
Morning shift.
Period of work which starts prior to the traditional Monday to Friday Day shift. The majority of hours are worked before mid-day. For example 06.00 - 14.00 or 07.00 to 15.00. Normally used for shifts of approximately 8hrs.
Synonymous with: Early shift.

N

Night shift.
In its broadest sense, any period of work that covers mid-night. However depending upon the context and the type of shift system used, it means slightly different things. Some of the main usages are.
  • Daily hours worked by permanent night shift workers, whatever their duration.
  • In systems based on two (12hr) shifts a day. The shift that covers the period either side of mid-night. Frequently 18.00 to 06.00 or 19.00 to 07.00.
  • In systems based on three (8hr) shifts a day. The shift that incorporates mid-night. For example 22.00 to 06.00 or 23.00 to 07.00.
  • In continuous systems with an integrated Night shift. The period of double cover.
Night shift worker.
Employees who are normally permanently employed on Night shifts. Often used for employees who only worked Nights on four or five weekdays. Increasingly used to refer to employees who work any number of night shifts on any day in the week.
Night worker.
An employee who only works on what an organization defines as the Night shift.
Nine day fortnight.
A form of compressed working time for Monday to Friday workers in which they provide the required level of cover on nine days out of ten in a fortnight.
Nocturnal.
Work and other activities that take place during the night. The opposite of diurnal.
Non-continuous shift system.
Patterns of working time, which generate cover for less than 24hrs a day.
Synonymous with: Discontinuous shift system.
Non-rotating blocks.
A shift pattern in which all the shifts worked between two rest periods are of the same type. There is no rotation within each block of shifts.
Synonymous with: Homogenous blocks.
Non-rotating shifts.
Shifts whose start and finish times do not change from day to day. The shifts can be worked over any number of days in the week. Normally applied to the individual types of shift within a fixed, non-rotating, shift system.
Synonymous with: Fixed shifts. Permanent shifts. Regular shifts.
Non-rotating shift system.
A pattern of work in which the overall level of cover required is provided by a series of fixed shifts. For example with a seven day continuous four team rota, based on two (12hr) shifts a day, two teams are permanently allocated to Nights, the other two to Days. Thus, for each team/employee not only is there no rotation within each block of shifts, but no rotation across blocks of shifts.
Synonymous with: Fixed shift systems. Permanent shift systems.
Non-standard hours.
Hours of work rostered outside the traditional Monday to Friday Day shift. It is a relative concept that changes over time. As the structure and organization of society has changed, so perceptions of what is non-standard have changed. Thus what was considered non-standard twenty years ago, is not necessarily so now.
Synonymous with: Abnormal hours. Unsocial hours.
Normal basic week.
The weekly hours that are normally worked by a full-time employee. For shift workers these hours are often averaged out over the shift cycle.
Synonymous with: Standard hours.
Normal day shift.
The normal daily hours worked by non-shift employees. Although often the same length on each day of the week, in a significant number of cases the Friday shift is shorter than the others.

O

Overtime.
Time worked over and above that specified for a full-time employee. It can be contractual, habitual or voluntary.
Overtime pay.
Payment for time worked over and above that specified for a full-time employee. It may, or may not, attract premium rates of pay.
Overtime premia.
Enhancements to the basic rate of pay for overtime hours worked. They may be expressed as a fixed monetary amount or a percentage enhancement. Their value may be fixed for all overtime hours worked, or may vary according to the perceived unsocialness of particular times in the day or week.
Overlap.
Period of time during which more than one team/crew/shift is present. Often used for handover purposes.
Owed hours.
Hours, over and above that shown on the basic shift rota that the employee may, but not necessarily will, be required to work
Synonymous with: Banked hours/time. Commitment hours. Pay back hours/shifts. Reconciliation hours/shifts.

P

Paid hours.
Two main meanings.
  1. Rostered hours actually paid.
    Frequently the same as rostered hours, but may differ where meal breaks are unpaid. It is concerned with the number of paid hours worked, not the rate of pay attached to those hours.
  2. Nominal Paid Hours.
    Based on the conversion of rostered hours to the nominal hours that they represent at plain time rates. For example, if, say, a Saturday shift is 8hrs, and it attracts a 50% shift premium, then nominal paid hours at plain time rates are, 12hrs.(8hrs + 150% = 12hrs) It is concerned with converting payments per shift/hour worked to a common basis, in order to calculate overall premium payments for a particular pattern of work.
Paid break.
All breaks within a shift that are paid for. Lunch breaks, tea breaks, rest breaks, etc,.
Paid meal break.
A meal break within a shift that is paid for. Frequently refers to the main (lunch) break of the day.
Part-time worker.
An employee whose regular average weekly hours are less than those for a full-time employee.
Pay back hours/shifts.
Hours or shifts, over and above that shown on the basic shift rota that the employee may, but not necessarily will, be required to work.
Synonymous with: Banked hours/time. Commitment hours, Owed hours. Reconciliation hours/shifts.
Percentage premia.
Premium payments for working shifts, that are calculated as a percentage enhancement to employees pay. Frequently this enhancement is based on the pay of the individual employee. In some instances the percentage enhancement is based on the mid-point, or some other point, on the employees salary scale. The net result is that to a greater or lesser degree, the monetary value of the premium reflects differences in pay.
Permanent shifts.
Shifts whose start and finish times do not change from day to day. The shifts can be worked over any number of days in the week. Normally applied to the individual types of shift within a fixed, non-rotating, shift system.
Synonymous with: Fixed shifts. Non-rotating shifts. Regular shifts.
Permanent shift system.
A pattern of work in which the overall level of cover required is provided by a series of fixed shifts. For example with a seven day continuous four team rota, based on two (12hr) shifts a day, two teams are permanently allocated to Nights, the other two to Days. Thus, for each team/employee not only is there no rotation within each block of shifts, but no rotation across blocks of shifts.
Synonymous with: Non-rotating shift system. Fixed shift system.
Plain time rates.
The basic rate of pay prior to any additions. It excludes shift premia, overtime payments and all other additions and allowances. It can be expressed on an hourly, weekly monthly or annual basis, although most frequently the former.
Synonymous with: Basic rate of pay.
Prelap.
A handover period that occurs prior to the designated basic shift start time.
Public holiday.
Time off, normally additional to annual leave, on specific days. The timing of which is frequently determined by religious events or national historical events.
Synonymous with: Bank holiday.

Q

Quick rotation.
A pattern of working time in which all types of shift are worked within each block of shifts. For example, in continuous systems where three (8hr) shifts a day are worked, and shifts are worked in blocks of six, each block comprises two Morning, two Afternoon and two Night shifts.
Synonymous with: Continental shift system. Fast Rotation. Rapid rotation.

R

Rapid rotation.
A pattern of working time in which all types of shift are worked within each block of shifts. For example, in continuous systems where three (8hr) shifts a day are worked, and shifts are worked in blocks of six, each block comprises two Morning, two Afternoon and two Night shifts.
Synonymous with: Continental shift system. Fast Rotation. Quick rotation.
Reconciliation period.
The period of time during which all, or a proportion of, surplus employee hours available can be utilized. The most common periods, either individually or in combination, are a month, a quarter or a year.
Synonymous with: Accounting period. Settlement period.
Reconciliation hours/shifts.
Hours or shifts, over and above that shown on the basic shift rota that the employee may, but not necessarily will, be required to work
Synonymous with: Banked hours/time. Commitment hours, Owed hours. Pay back hours/shifts.
Recorded hours.
Hours worked, and recorded as being worked, during the relevant accounting period.
Reference period.
The period of time over which average weekly hours, average holiday entitlements, rest period entitlement, breaks due within a shift, etc, are calculated.
Regular shifts.
Shifts whose start and finish times do not change from day to day. The shifts can be worked over any number of days in the week. Normally applied to the individual types of shift within a fixed, non-rotating, shift system.
Synonymous with: Fixed shifts. Non-rotating shifts. Permanent shifts.
Rest breaks.
One, or more, breaks taken between the start and finish time of each rostered period at work. The phrase incorporates all breaks for whatever purpose. (meal breaks, tea breaks, etc.) The conditions as to where such breaks can be taken, vary. In some instances they can only be taken at the place of work, in others there is no such restriction. They can be paid, unpaid, or a mixture of the two.
Rest period.
Time not rostered. That is, the gap between individual rostered shifts, or blocks of rostered shifts. Does not include rest breaks within shifts.
Roster.
The pattern of working time generating the level of cover required. It shows the distribution of time at work and rest periods.
Synonymous with: Rota, Schedule.
Rostered holiday.
Holidays that are an integral part of the pattern of working time.
Rota.
The pattern of working time generating the level of cover required. It shows the distribution of time at work and rest periods.
Synonymous with: Roster, Schedule.
Rotating shift system.
Patterns of working time during which the timing of an employees hours of work change on a rostered basis. Used to describe situations in which employees rotate through two, three, or more, types of shift.
Synonymous with: Alternating shift system. (partly)

S

Schedule.
The pattern of working time generating the level of cover required. It shows the distribution of time at work and rest periods.
Synonymous with: Roster. Rota.
Semi-backward rotation.
A pattern of work in which the starting time of successive rostered shifts, or blocks of rostered shifts, changes in both a clockwise and an anticlockwise direction. For example, with a three (8hr) shift a day system, generating 24hrs cover for 7 days a week, and shifts worked in blocks of six;
  1. Within a block of shifts.
    Two Morning shifts followed by two Night shifts and then two Afternoon shifts.
  2. Across blocks of shifts.
    A block of six Morning shifts is followed by a block of six Night shifts and then six Afternoon shifts. (Effectively the same pattern of work as with a Backward rotation)
Sequence of rotation.
Where the pattern of work results in employees working shifts with different start and finish times, the sequence in which the latter occur relative to the movement of the clock. That is, the order in which rotating shifts are worked, either within or across blocks of shifts, by an employee and/or team.
Synonymous with: Direction of rotation. Shift sequence.
Semi-continuous.
A pattern of working time that provides 24hr cover for less than seven days a week.
Service related holiday.
Annual holiday entitlements that accrue according to the individual employee’s length of service. Normally additional to any other types of holiday entitlement. For example, a total basic annual holiday entitlement of four weeks, plus an additional two days holiday entitlement after five years service, and a further 3 days after ten years service.
Set.
The people present on any rostered period of duty. Can range from one person, to any number of people you care to specify.
Synonymous with: Crew, Shift, Team.
Settlement period.
The period of time during which all, or a proportion of, surplus employee hours available can be utilized. The most common periods, either individually or in combination, are a month, a quarter or a year.
Synonymous with: Accounting period. Reconciliation period.
Seven day rotas.
Any pattern of working time that covers all seven days a week, but not necessarily all hours within the seven days, or with the same number of people present on each rostered shift.
Shadow rota.
Two alternative meanings.
  1. A rota that runs through planned shutdowns. Its purpose is to show who would be called in, and when, if cover is required during the shutdown.
    Synonymous with: Holiday rota.
  2. A rota that runs alongside the basic rota showing who is liable to be called if, and when, there is a shortfall in staffing levels on a rostered shift.
    Synonymous with: Cover rota. Call out rota, Stand-by rota.
Shift.
Is used to describe two different things. Namely:
  1. Time based.
    The rostered period of time at work on any one occasion.
    Synonymous with: Duty.
  2. People based.
    The people present on any rostered period of duty. Can range from one person to any number of people you care to specify.
    Synonymous with: Team, Crew, Set.
Shift change.
When one group of employees is replaced by another. May be butt-ended, or include an overlap.
Synonymous with: Changeover, Handover.
Shift premia.
An addition to pay as compensation for a pattern of working time that departs from the traditional Monday to Friday Day shift. The level of premium may change the greater the departure from the traditional day shift pattern. Can be synonymous with inconvenience payment and/or unsocial hours premia, but not necessarily so.
Shift sequence.
Where the pattern of work results in employees working shifts with different start and finish times, the sequence of the latter, relative to the movement of the clock. That is, the order in which rotating shifts are worked, either within or across blocks of shifts, by an employee and/or team.
Synonymous with: Direction of rotation. Sequence of rotation.
Shiftwork.
Any pattern of working time. Traditionally used to describe patterns of working time that generate cover outside the normal Monday to Friday Day shift.
Shift worker.
Traditionally, employees whose hours of work wholly or partly fall outside the traditional Monday to Friday Day shift. However it can be, and on occasions is, extended to include day shift workers.
Short shift.
A shift that is shorter than the standard length. Frequently used with semi-continuous and discontinuous shift systems. For example with a double day shift system worked over five days a week, the two Friday shifts are 6hrs rather than 8hrs.
Shutdown.
Period of time when the organization is not operating, or not fully operational, and all, or the majority of, employees are not required to be at work.
Six day rotas.
Any pattern of working time that covers six days a week. However, it is not necessary that all hours within the six days are covered, that the level of cover provided on each day is the same, or that the same number of people present on each rostered shift. The day not covered by the rota is frequently, but not invariably, a Sunday. The timing of the day off can be from midnight to midnight, but more frequently is linked to shift start and finish times. For example, from 22.00 Saturday to 22.00 Sunday, or 06.00 Sunday to 06.00 Monday.
Six shift/crew/set/team fixed.
A pattern of working time in which there are three shifts a day, and the work force is divided into six groups. Two groups are permanently allocated to each of the three types of shift. For example in a continuous system based on three (8hr) shifts a day, generating 24hrs cover for 7 days a week, two teams work Permanent Mornings, two work Permanent Afternoons and the other two work Permanent Nights.
Six team/crew/set/shift rota.
A pattern of working time in which the labour force is split into six groups of employees. Between them these six groups cover all types of rostered shift. However, each individual team/crew/set/shift may, or may not, work all types of rostered shift.
Six shift/team/crew/set rotating.
A pattern of working time in which the work force is divided into six groups. Each team/crew/set/shift, rotates across all types of rostered shift.
Slow rotation.
Two possible meanings.
  1. Within a block of shifts.
    No rotation within a block of shifts. Each block of shifts comprises shifts of the same type. However successive blocks of shifts are of a different type. For example, with a continuous shift system generating 24hrs cover seven days with 12hr shifts, a repeating pattern based on four Day shifts followed by a block of four rest days and then four Night shifts.
    Synonymous with: Homogeneous blocks. Non-rotating blocks
  2. Across blocks of shifts.
    A pattern of working time in which two, or frequently more, successive blocks of shifts of the same type are rostered. Thus an employee can be working one type of shift for over a month, before rotating to a different type of shift. For example, in continuous systems where three (8hr) shifts a day are worked, and shifts are worked in blocks of six, four blocks of Morning shifts are followed by four blocks of Afternoon shifts and then four blocks of Night shifts.
Speed of rotation.
A measure of the frequency of the change, either within or across blocks of shifts, from one type of shift to another.
Synonymous with: Frequency of rotation.
Split shift.
A pattern of working time that entails at least two periods at work, during a 24hr period.
Staggered breaks.
For each employee, the timing of breaks within a shift, are staggered so that a minimum level of cover is maintained at all times.
Staggered days.
A pattern of working time in which Day shifts are spread over six or seven days a week rather than the five week days.
Staggered start.
Shift start times that are staggered to give a gradual build up of the number of people present during a shift. Equally, given periods at work of the same length, there is a run down in the number of people present at the end of the shift.
Standard hours.
The weekly hours that are normally worked by a full-time employee. For shift workers these hours are often averaged out over the shift cycle.
Synonymous with: Normal basic week.
Standard work pattern.
Two usages.
  • Traditional Monday to Friday Day shift working.
  • The pattern of work as set out on the rota.
Stand-by.
The period of time during rostered rest periods, that an employee is available for work if called upon.
Stand-by payment.
Payment made for time spent on stand-by
Stand-by rota.
A rota that runs alongside the basic rota showing who is liable to be called in, and when, if there is a shortfall in staffing levels on a rostered shift.
Synonymous with: Call out rota. Cover rota. Shadow rota.
Surplus hours.
In a comparison between employee hours required to operate a shift rota, and employee hours available to do so, can be used in two ways. Namely;
  • Surplus of employee hours available. A measure of the additional hours available per employee over, and above that required to operate the shift rota.
  • Surplus of production hours required. A measure of the extent to which employee hours available do not cover all hours required to operate the rota.
In most annual hours agreements, surplus hours refer to the former, that is the surplus of employee hours available.
Switch point.
Three main usages;
  1. Within a block of shifts.
    The point at which there is a switch from one type of shift to another. For example, in a rapidly rotating system based on three (8hr) shifts a day and a forward rotation within each block of shifts, the points at which there is a switch from Morning shifts to Afternoon shifts, and then from Afternoon shifts to Night shifts.
  2. Across blocks of shifts.
    With a slowly rotating shift system the point at which there is a change from one type of shift to another. For example with a four crew rota based on two (12hr) shifts a day, the number of weeks before there is a switch from blocks of Day shifts to blocks of Night shifts.
  3. Within a Year.
    During the year, the point in a rota at which there is a change from one type of rota to another. For example, in an annual hours rota, the point at which there is a switch from the Basic rota with an even distribution of rest days, to a Summer rota generating extended rest periods.

T

Tea breaks.
One, or more, breaks taken between the start and finish time of each rostered period at work. Usually they are shorter than meal breaks. In most cases they are paid.
Team.
The people present on any rostered period of duty. Can range from one person, to any number of people you care to specify.
Synonymous with: Crew, Set, Shift.
Temporary shift worker.
An employee who is only employed for part of the year. Often they are employed to provide cover during peak holiday or production periods.
Three team/crew/set/shift rotas.
Two alternative definitions
  1. Time based.
    A pattern of working time in which each 24hr period is split into three shifts. The most commonly occurring division is three shifts of 8hrs, however other combinations are possible. For example two shift of 7hrs and one of 10hrs, or a combination of 7hr, 8hr and 9hr shifts. The rota can be operated by any number of teams.
  2. People based.
    A pattern of working time in which the labour force is split into three groups of employees. Between them these three groups cover all rostered shifts. However, each individual team/crew/set/shift may, or may not, work all types of rostered shift. The rota need not cover, although it frequently does, all 24hrs a day. Moreover, rotas of this type often operate for less than all seven days a week. For example, a pattern of working time based on three (8hr) shifts a day in which 24hr cover is generated for five days a week.
Three-and-a-half team/crew/set/shift rota
A pattern of working time in which the labour force is split into seven groups of employees, two of which, but not necessarily the same two, are present on each rostered shift.
Three team/crew/set/shift fixed.
A pattern of working time in which there are three types of shift. The work force is divided into three groups, each of whom permanently works one type of rostered shift. For example in a discontinuous system providing 24hrs cover for 5 days a week, one team works Permanent Mornings, another Permanent Afternoons, and the third Permanent Nights.
Three team/crew/set/shift rotating.
A pattern of working time in which the work force is divided into three groups. Each team/crew/set/shift rotates across all types of shift.
Time off in lieu.
Additional time off as compensation for rostered hours worked in excess of basic contractual hours. Frequently expressed as the excess of average rostered weekly hours over normal basic weekly hours. These excess hours are banked, normally until they are equivalent to a full or half shift, and can be taken as additional time off.
Traditional shift rota.
A pattern of working time in which holiday entitlements, other types of absence, and non-productive operating hours, are not an integral part of the rota.
Twelve hour shifts.
Rostered time at work that is approximately of 12hrs duration. Due to the ease of divisibility into 24hrs, one of the most common shift lengths.
Twilight shift.
A short shift that starts in the late afternoon, early evening, and normally ends before mid-night. For example, 17.00 to 21.00.
Synonymous with: Evening shift.
Two shift/crew/team rotas.
Two alternative definitions.
  1. Time based.
    A pattern of working time in which each 24hr period is split into two shifts. The most commonly occurring division is two shifts of 12hrs. Given the base length of the shift, the practical scope for a variation in shift duration is limited. However a combination of 12.5hr and 11.5hr shifts could be used. The cover required can be generated by any number of teams.
  2. People based.
    A pattern of working time in which the labour force is split into two groups of employees. Between them these two groups cover all rostered shifts. However, each individual team/crew/set/shift may, or may not, work all types of rostered shift. Moreover, the level of cover provided can be for less than 24hrs a day and/or seven days a week. For example, two teams operating a double day shift system generating 16hrs cover a day, five days a week.
Two-and-a-half team/crew/set/shift rota.
A pattern of working time in which the labour force is split into five groups of employees, two of which, but not necessarily the same two, are present on each rostered shift.
Two team/crew/set/shift fixed.
Two main definitions.
  1. One type of shift.
    A pattern of working time in which there is just one type of rostered shift, cover being provided by two groups of people. For example, a seven day staggered day shift system in which 10hrs cover a day is provided by two groups of employees.
  2. Two types of shift.
    A pattern of working time in which there are two types of shift. The work force is divided into two groups, one of whom permanently works one type of shift, and the second group the other. For example in a discontinuous system providing 16hrs cover for 5 days a week, one team works Permanent Mornings the other Permanent Afternoons.
Two team/crew/set/shift rotating.
A pattern of working time in which the work force is divided into two groups. Each team/crew/set/shift rotates across all types of shift.
Type of shift.
The designation of the shift. In most case this is by the approximate time of day it occurs. For example, Morning, Day, Afternoon, Night, Twilight, Late, Early, Evening, etc,. Frequently the latter will be shortened to their initial letter. e.g. M for Morning shift, A for Afternoon shift, N for Night shift, D for Day shift, etc.

U

Universal pay grid.
A seven day grid that shows either the rate of pay due, or the premium payment applicable, to work at specific times. Can be designated in hours or shifts. It is applicable to any pattern of working time and provides a common basis for the payment of employees working continuous, semi-continuous and discontinuous shift systems.
Unpaid meal break.
A meal break within a shift that is not paid for. Frequently the main (lunch) break of the day.
Unsocial hours.
Rostered hours outside the traditional Monday to Friday Day shift. However it is a relative concept. As society has changed, so perceptions of what is unsocial have changed. Thus what was considered unsocial twenty years ago, is not necessarily so now. Synonymous with: Abnormal hours. Non-standard hours.
Unsocial hours premia.
Additional payments made for time worked during what are perceived to be unsocial hours. The level of premium may change with the perceived degree of unsocialness. Can be synonymous with inconvenience payment and/or shift premium, but not necessarily so.

V

Voluntary overtime.
Time worked at the employee’s discretion over and above that specified for a full-time employee. The latter can be specified on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. For example, if the normal basic week for full-time employees is 40hrs, then weekly hours above this figure that the employee chooses to work, are voluntary overtime.

W

Week.
A continuous period of 168hrs (seven days). Frequently starting from midnight on Sunday, but can be defined as starting from midnight Saturday, or any other point in time you care to specify. For rostering purposes, the definition of a week is often aligned with shift start and finish times. For example, from 06.00 on a Monday to the same time on the following Monday.
Week about.
A pattern of working time in which the rotation occurs on a weekly basis.
Weekend premia.
An addition to pay as compensation for hours rostered at weekends. Can be paid in addition to shift premia, or as a substitute for it.
Weekend shift.
A shift that starts on a Saturday or Sunday. Occasionally extended to include the Friday Night Shift, and/or foreshortened to exclude the Sunday Night shift.
Weekend shift workers.
Employees who only work rostered weekend shifts. Weekday shifts are worked by a different group of employees.

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