SHIFT DIFFERENTIAL PAY: Definition and Average Pay In 2023

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Paying employees a differential salary is an efficient way to address issues in the workplace. Even though shift differentials aren’t required by federal law, many employers, especially in the manufacturing industry, offer them to get workers to work the “undesirable” night or weekend shifts. Employees may appreciate the extra hours, but they will not appreciate having to report to work at 10 p.m. How can you make it more appealing to those who stay late? Find out more about how night shift differential pay works and the average differential shift pay in 2023.

What is Shift Differential Pay?

Shift differential pay is extra money that employees get when they work a less desirable shift, like in the evening or at midnight. An employee and their employer can strike a deal on the shift differential rate. Even though the law doesn’t require you to pay employees more, doing so can help you keep them. Employers may choose to give employees more paid time off instead of pay shift differentials (PTO) as a way to reward them.

Employees working the third shift are likely to be paid more than those working the second shift. An employer may provide weekend differential pay in addition to the night shift differential. Employers may choose to pay weekend shift differentials to all employees rather than just second and third-shift employees.

What Is the Average Shift Differential Pay?

It all depends. Extra wages can range between 5 and 15 percent. The average shift differential pay for hourly workers in 2023 will range from a percentage (5–15%) of their hourly rate to a flat fee (50 cents to $1.25). You can calculate the 2023 average shift differential pay as 10% of the role’s hourly wage. In 2023, companies that give their workers an average shift differential pay will decide on the hourly rate based on the annual salary and apply it consistently.

How Do You Calculate Shift Differential Income?

Employers typically set the shift differential as a percentage of wages. The hiring company sets the compensation levels. When determining a percentage or amount for shift differentials, consider the employee’s responsibilities, experience, hours, and whether the employee is hourly or salaried.

Manually calculating shift differentials is pretty simple. A shift differential for hourly employees can be a percentage of the employee’s base rate or a flat amount per hour. They also come in premium forms for employees.

Assume you work in a factory. The first shift begins at 6 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m., and it pays $9.75 per hour. Because most factory workers want to get home early, they will prefer to work the first shift. The second shift, which runs from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., is usually far less appealing.

As a result, the company will implement a shift differential pay policy in which workers who work from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. will receive a 20% shift differential. If you work that less-desirable shift, you’ll earn $11.70 per hour worked, because 20% of $9.75 equals $1.95, and $9.75 plus $1.95 equals $11.70.

What Are Shift Differential Hours?

The shift differential is the extra pay a staff member receives for working outside of the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Sunday.

Does Shift Differential Apply to PTO?

Yes, a staff member must work on a shift eligible for the shift differential the day before and the day after his or her day off to get the shift differential pay for PTO, holidays, and sick time. There are no legal requirements here, so whatever you do is entirely up to you. However, most businesses that offer shift differentials base it on the employee’s regular shift hours.

If an employee is always on a later shift, they will get the average of the base rate and the differential they usually get when they take paid time off or are sick. If the employee rotates between day and night shifts, their leave rate is usually the regular base rate. Many businesses choose to set a specific rate or differential for holiday pay, just as they would for overnight or weekend shifts.

No matter how you decide to compensate your staff, you should always communicate the agreed-upon rate to the employee on their formal notice of leave paperwork.

Night Shift Differential Pay

Employees who do not typically work night shifts are eligible for night shift differential pay. It is not the same as “night pay,” which refers to the wages paid to employees who work the second or third shift. Night pay is earned by your overnight security guard, who works from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night. Your employee who normally works during the day – or first shift – but works a later shift earns night differentials.

What Are the Exclusions to the Night Differential?

There are some unique considerations to take into account when implementing night shift differential pay:

  • Vacation: The alternative to increasing nighttime wages is to offer additional vacation time in exchange for every hour of work.
  • Holiday pay: This is typically 1.5 to 2 times the regular pay. Determine if the night shift differential will boost holiday pay and if employees who usually work the night shift but get a holiday off will receive their base pay or the night shift differential.
  • Travel: Traveling for work can be exhausting, and flight delays or roadwork can push travel into the night shift. Determine whether or not this situation qualifies for night shift differential pay.

When Does Night Shift Differential Pay Apply?

When employees work unusual hours, they receive night shift differential pay. These unusual schedules are likely due to seasonal demands or projects. 

While night differentials are not required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), overtime pay is. Additionally, there are no federal laws requiring nighttime differentials. Most states and municipalities lack second and third-shift pay laws, so consult a local expert.

What Is the Federal Government’s Policy on Night Differential Pay?

Federal employees earn 7.5% more between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. and 10% more between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. In those periods, the government does not pay the differential per hour of work. Instead, it pays for the entire shift if the majority of the overtime hours for the shift occur during the period.

An employee who works from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. would get a 10% raise because six of their eight hours were at night. There would be no difference if the hours worked were from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition, if an employee is working a normal shift at night, their holiday, vacation, and travel pay will be determined by their regular work schedule.

Is Shift Differential the Same as Overtime?

Overtime pay is not the same as shift differential pay. Both are similar and complementary, but you can’t calculate them in the same way or have the same legal implications.

Shift differential pay is not a legal requirement. It is simply used to incentivize work during non-standard hours. It varies by company; some offer a percentage of an hourly rate, while others offer a fixed dollar amount. These percentages and rates can also vary significantly within the same industries. Most hourly workers who put in more than 40 hours in a workweek can receive overtime pay.

Why Does the Night Shift Pay More?

Workers who consistently put in extra time on the third shift get what’s known as “night pay,” since they don’t receive a premium on top of their regular salary. On the other hand, employees who work shifts between certain hours receive a night differential only on rare occasions.

Whether or not an employee receives overtime pay for working, overnight shifts are negotiable between the business and the worker (or the worker’s agent). The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require night work to be compensated. However, the Fair Labor Standards Act mandates that nonexempt employees must be paid “not less than time and one-half the employee’s regular rate for time worked over 40 hours in a workweek.”


Night shift differential pay makes it simple to recruit and motivate daytime workers to work night shifts. You’ve probably put in more than a few late nights at the office to keep up with the demands of your thriving small business. Even though most workers would rather be at home sleeping, night shift differential pay can make working those hours more pleasant. If you appreciate your employees’ work, you’ll reduce turnover, boost productivity, and boost confidence.

Shift Differential Pay FAQs

How much is the night differential?

Employees who regularly work at night are eligible for a 10% premium on their base pay.

A 12-hour night shift is legal if the average length of a night shift in 24 hours does not exceed 8 hours when measured over a standard reference period of 17 weeks.

Is night shift differential taxable?

Overtime pay, night shift differential pay, and hazard pay received by such minimum wage earners are not subject to income tax under R.A. 9504.


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