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Put simply, shift loading is a higher rate of pay that you may be obligated to pay your employees when they work particular hours or days. Shift loading is usually paid when your employee works outside your ‘ordinary hours’ such as over the weekend, late on a weeknight, or early in the morning. Although an award, enterprise agreement or registered agreement would typically specify who is entitled to shift loading and under what conditions they can receive it, this article provides some general considerations you should make when dealing with shift loading.

What Is Shift Work?

Since your employee can do shift work at unusual times of the day, shift loading ensures that you adequately compensate them for their hour shifts. As mentioned above, the definition of shift work will vary depending on the award, enterprise agreement or registered agreement that covers your workplace. 

For example, a business that operates 24/7 would likely involve shift workers, including customer service staff and security.

Shift work can also be characterised by having:

  • a fixed schedule, i.e. you expect your employee to work the same schedule each week; or
  • a varied schedule, i.e. you expect your employee to work a rotating schedule of different shifts at varying times.

You might also require your shift workers to be on-call and work upon your request. Ultimately, your award, enterprise agreement, or employment contracts will deem what shift work is beyond your business’ ‘ordinary hours’. By following these specifications closely, you can ensure that you pay the appropriate loading rates to your employees.

Who Has The Right to Shift Loading? 

As you can probably tell, shift workers receive different entitlements than your regular employees. For this reason, you must clarify who is entitled to shift loading in your business. This is based on whether they meet the definition of a shift worker in the applicable award or enterprise agreement.

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What Is The Shift Loading Rate?

The award or enterprise agreement that covers your employees will usually specify any loading rate. For example, under the General Retail Award, casual employees (who are not shift workers) who perform evening work after 6pm on a Monday to Friday evening have the right to be paid a penalty rate of 150% (inclusive of casual loading).

Ultimately it is your responsibility to ensure that you pay your shift workers correctly per the relevant award, enterprise agreement, or employment contract. If you are unsure about the shift loading rate you should be paying your staff or are engaging in dispute resolution, you can get in touch with one of our lawyers to help you out.

Should I Be Aware of Additional Payments?

Furthermore, you may have to make additional payments. However, this will depend on the nature of your employee’s work.


These allowances reimburse shift workers for additional expenses incurred during their employment. You might have to pay shift allowances where your employees:

  • do a certain task that requires an extra skill;
  • use their own tools to complete the task; or
  • work in unpleasant or dangerous conditions.

To use the General Retail Award as an example again, you must pay a motor vehicle allowance of $.082 for each kilometre travelled where you request an employee to use their own motor vehicle to perform their duties. In any event, you should consult the relevant award or registered agreement to determine whether any allowances are payable.

Night Shift Penalty Rates

An award or enterprise agreement can also include penalty rates for night shifts. You might have to pay employees a permanent night shift loading if they regularly work night shifts. Again, whether you must pay these penalty rates depends on the award or registered agreement that covers your workplace.

Key Takeaways

Shift loading is a higher rate of pay that an employee might have the right to for working outside your business’ ‘ordinary hours’. Your relevant award or registered agreement will typically specify:

  • what shift work is or work done outside ‘ordinary hours’;
  • who has the right to shift loading;
  • what rate you must pay for shift loading; and
  • any additional payments you must make.

If you need to clarify the shift loading rates, our experienced employment lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 1300 544 755 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is shift loading?

Shift loading is a higher rate of pay that your employees might be entitled to if they work outside your business’ ‘ordinary hours’.  

What is a shift allowance? 

A shift allowance is an additional payment you make to an employee for various reasons. For example, a shift allowance can cover travel to and from work and meal allowances. 


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