Night Pay is the Right Pay But ONLY When It's Regularly Scheduled

October 7, 2014 4:14 PM , Updated August 12, 2016 2:58 PM
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Your supervisor is making up the work schedules for next week.  For the last several weeks you’ve been assigned to the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. work shift.  On the schedule for next week you are assigned to the 4 p.m. to midnight shift.  Will you be entitled to night pay?  If so, how much will it be?  The following looks at the rules for deciding what qualifies as night work, how much night pay will be, and any conditions that may impact whether you will receive night pay when assigned to a shift that includes night hours.

When is it night work?

Night work is regularly scheduled work performed by a GS employee between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.  To be regularly scheduled the work must be scheduled before the beginning of the administrative workweek.  In most Executive Branch agencies this means the work must be scheduled prior to the start of the seven day workweek that begins on Sunday.  It includes the regularly scheduled basic tour of duty and any regularly scheduled overtime.  When those regularly scheduled hours occur between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., then the work is considered to be night work.

There is one other kind of work that qualifies as night work for GS employees even though it was not scheduled prior to the beginning of the regularly scheduled workweek.  This happens when the supervisor temporarily assigns the GS employee to a different daily tour of duty that includes night work.  If this happens during the course of the regular workweek and the hours are not overtime, then the work will qualify as night work as long as it falls between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.  Again, this work must be a temporary reassignment that replaces the employee’s daily tour of duty, NOT irregular or occasional overtime.  An example of this would be Joe who starts the week working 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  On Tuesday his supervisor tells Joe that the evening shift is shorthanded, and changes Joe’s work schedule for the remainder of the week to 4 p.m. to midnight.  This change in Joe’s regularly scheduled workweek qualifies Joe for night pay for the hours from 6 p.m. to midnight for that workweek.

When is it NOT night?

When a GS employee completes his or her regularly scheduled day shift, the supervisor may ask the employee to remain on the job.  This additional time may result in the employee working past 6 p.m.  However, these additional hours do NOT qualify as night work because they are what are known as irregular or occasional work.  Irregular or occasional work consists of hours added to the employee’s schedule during the course of that workweek.  Because such irregular or occasional work does not meet the definition of regularly scheduled, it also does not meet the definition of night work.

What about those on Flexible Schedules? 

Some GS employees work a flexible schedule and are able to establish some of the hours they will work.  Such flexible hours the employee sets and that fall within the night hours are NOT eligible for night pay.

What is the night pay rate? 

Night shift differential is premium pay paid to a GS employee at a rate equal to 10 percent of his or her hourly rate of basic pay.  The hourly rate of basic pay includes locality payment, special rate supplement or other similar payments or supplements provided by law.  It is paid only for regularly scheduled hours worked between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.  If an employee is eligible for other kinds of premium pay such as overtime, Sunday or holiday pay, the night differential pay is NOT included when calculating other forms of premium pay.

Are there any special situations related to night pay?

Yes, there are two.  First, if a GS employee is excused from night work on a holiday then the employee continues to receive night pay for the scheduled night hours.  Second, if a GS employee is on official travel during his or her regularly scheduled duty hours that fall between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., then the employee continues to receive night pay whether or not she or he performs actual duty.

Does leave affect night pay?

When a GS employee takes less than 8 hours of paid leave during a pay period there is no impact on night pay.  The employee is paid night pay for all night hours scheduled, including the ones during which leave is taken.  However, if a GS employee takes 8 or more hours of leave during a pay period, then night differential is paid only for the regularly scheduled hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. during which the employee actually performs work.

Will I earn night pay during training?

The regulations establish a limited number of exceptions that allow an employee to receive night differential and other forms of premium pay while in training.  One of these circumstances is when an employee must take training at night because situations the employee must learn to handle occur only at night, e.g., learning to use night vision devices.  If the training the employee is attending matches one of the exceptions then she or he may receive night differential for the training that occurs during regularly scheduled night hours.

To summarize: night pay at 10 percent of the GS employee’s basic rate is paid only for regularly scheduled hours that fall between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.  This includes time when a GS employee’s basic tour of duty is changed during the workweek from all day hours to a schedule with night hours, but it does not include irregular or occasional overtime.  Keep in mind that the requirements for night pay for Federal Wage System employees are different from those discussed in this article.  If you would like to see an article on night pay for FWS employees, let me know at the e-mail address below.

Wayne Coleman is a federal pay expert available to help your agency avoid premium pay claims through on-site training. Contact him for more information.

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About the Author

Wayne Coleman is a compensation consultant whose career at various Federal agencies and in private practice spans almost 40 years. During this time he has written about and provided training on overtime and premium pay, on the principles of FLSA coverage and exemption, and on related Federal compensation issues. Wayne is available to help your agency avoid premium pay claims through consulting services and training. You can contact him at [email protected].