Shift workers

There are some special conditions for shift workers in the national workplace relations system.

Modern awards and enterprise agreements have different definitions of what a shift worker is. There’s also a definition for workers who aren’t covered by an award or agreement.

Who is a shift worker?

An employee is a shift worker if they fit the definition in the award or agreement that applies to them. You can visit How to find an award and search for an agreement if you’re not sure what applies to you.

If an employee isn’t covered by an award or agreement, they’re a shift worker if they:

  • work in a business where shifts are continuously rostered 24 hours a day for 7 days a week
  • are regularly rostered to work those shifts
  • regularly work on Sundays and public holidays.


Shift workers are usually entitled to a shift loading for all the hours they work. The loading depends on the award or agreement that applies.

Visit Finding the right pay for tools to help you calculate minimum wages, including the shift loading, allowances and penalty rates.


Under the National Employment Standards shift workers get an extra week of annual leave each year.
The extra leave accumulates with the rest of their annual leave throughout the year.


Harriet is a shift worker in a factory. She’s being working in this role for 6 months. She wants to take some annual leave and needs to know how much she has accumulated.

Because she’s a shift worker she’s entitled to an extra week of annual leave every year, on top of the minimum 4 weeks under the National Employment Standards. After 6 months, Harriet is entitled to 2.5 weeks of annual leave.

Other conditions

Awards and agreements can also cover things like:

  • the minimum number of hours shift workers can be rostered and paid for
  • penalty rates for working nights, weekends or public holidays
  • overtime pay for working outside regular hours
  • the hours that a shift worker can work including meal and other breaks.

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Page last updated: 17 Dec 2012