What is the Correct Pay When There is an Unscheduled Shift Change?

What is the correct pay when there is an unscheduled shift change for a General Schedule employee?

Q:  A reader recently came across the article on FedSmith about Night Pay is the Right Pay But ONLY When It’s Regularly Scheduled. It raised the question: what is the correct pay when there is an unscheduled shift change? As an example, the person submitting the question provided the following scenario.


Employee Joe is scheduled Monday – Friday on the 1800-0200 shift for his administrative work week which entitles him to be paid Night Differential.  During his Wednesday night shift, his supervisor tells him, based on operational need, Joe will be working a 0800-1600 for the remainder of the administrative week, i.e.,Thursday and Friday.

Is Joe entitled to 16 hours of night differential pay for his work on Thursday and Friday since the shift change occurred after the beginning of the administrative work week even though the hours he worked were not qualifying night hours?

A:  One important bit of information the questioner did not include is whether or not Joe is a GS employee.  If he is, then the following answer applies to him.  If he is a WG/WL/WS employee, then the answer would be different.

The regulations for night pay for GS employees are very specifically worded: a night differential is paid to the employee when “…nightwork is regularly scheduled work performed by an employee between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.”  To answer the question it is important to focus on the word “performed.”  If the regularly scheduled night work for a GS employee is performed by him or her, then she or he is entitled to night differential (see 5 C.F.R. §§ 550.121 and 550.122).

If a GS employee’s shift is changed in the middle of the week from a night shift to a day shift with no night hours, then the employee will not perform night work and is, therefore, not entitled to night differential.

Remember if Joe is not a WG/WL/WS employee, then the rules regarding night differential are different than the discussion above.

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.

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 wayneslyhouse@comcast.net.