Despite being widely used interchangeably, the evening and night shifts are technically and categorically different. The Public Broadcasting Service, more popularly recognized as PBS, categorizes the evening shift as a work schedule which have half or more of its hours allocated between 4 PM and midnight. PBS also categorically defined the night shift as work schedules that have four or more hours allocated from midnight to 8 AM.
The night shift and evening shifts both fall under shiftwork. Shiftwork is operating hours that fall under any nonstandard work schedule that doesn’t fall within the regular 8 AM and 4 PM schedules. This includes evening shifts, night shifts, rotating shifts, split shifts, and extended duty hours.
In summary, the primary difference between the evening shift and the night shift are as follows:
Evening Shift – You can consider yourself an evening shift worker when most of your schedule falls between 4 PM and midnight. This means your shift can start at 1 PM and still be a shift worker, as ‘most’ of your shift falls between 4 PM and midnight (4 PM to 9 PM).
Night Shift – A night shift worker is an employee whose schedule falls mostly between midnight to 8 AM. This means most night shift workers may start going to work by the evening shift and still be a part of the night shift.
Shiftwork: What is it?
Due to rapidly growing consumer needs, many of today’s industries and establishments have implemented 24/7 services. This means companies have started opening up operations during regular work hours, like evening and night shifts. Evening and night shifts allow industries to provide for their customers and increase productivity. This scheduling is called shiftwork.
Companies use shiftwork to ensure that their services reach their clients and keep the economy moving. Industries that use shift work are often related to essential industries such as medical services, logistics, manufacturing companies, and those who work in the field of construction.
What is the Evening Shift?
PBS defines the evening shift as “a period of work in which half or more of the hours worked are between 4 PM. and midnight.” Basically, evening shifts refer to work schedules that start mostly fall from early afternoon to up to early hours of the next morning. Many evening shifts start at 3 PM and end by 11 PM. Some evening shifts even start at exactly 4 PM and end at midnight or even start at 5 PM and end at 1 AM the next morning.
However, it is important to note that companies can still define what employees and staff consider to be evening shift hours. For the University of California Irvine, the school defines that evening shift as follows:
“Evening Shift: An evening shift differential applies to a shift that includes four or more hours worked after 5:00 PM and before 12:00 AM (midnight).”
In this case, compared to PBS definitions, UCI provides its employees and staff with a different time range that qualifies as the evening shifts. For the university, an employee or staff is an evening shift worker if most of the hours of their shift fall between 5 PM and midnight.
Evening – Night Shift Differential
Fortunately, when it comes to government premiums on pay and compensation, the United States Office of Personnel Management released standardized categories for evening and night shift workers.
According to the office, employees who work the majority of their hours from 3 PM to midnight may receive a 7.5% night differential. The OPM did, however, require that the employee should be working the majority of their hours during a regularly scheduled non-overtime shift to qualify for the night differential benefits.
The OPM further wrote that companies and employers are to pay the night differentials for the entire shift if the majority of an employee’s shift falls within the specified periods. The office also further defined the ‘majority of a shift’ as a number of whole hours greater than one-half of a shift. This definition considers meal breaks as part of the whole shift as well, which means that an employee should work at least five or more hours within the OPM’s specified periods to qualify for the night differential.
What is the Night Shift?
According to PBS, the night shift is “a period of work in which half or more of the hours worked are between midnight and 8 AM.” People also widely call night shifts “graveyard shifts” as it operates late in the night to the wee hours of the morning, where it is extremely quiet – like a graveyard.
Employees on the night shift may report to work as early as the evening shift from 9 PM to exactly midnight. Compared to their evening shift counterparts, companies pay their night shift workers even more. This may be because of the generally negative conceptions people have about the night shift. These impressions of the night shift are further reinforced by the many studies that seemingly connect several medical and mental health conditions with graveyard shifts.
As of 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has recorded that four percent of the American workforce work night shifts. Employees who work during the night shift, according to the OPM, are entitled to the highest night differential.
According to the information that OPM published on their website, employees who spend most of their shift working between 11 PM to 8 AM may receive a 10% night differential. Similar to evening shift night differential qualifications, graveyard shift workers have to work the majority of their regularly scheduled non-overtime shifts within the specifications.
The primary difference between the evening shift and the night shift is the hours you need to work to qualify as part of one or the other. The OPM’s qualifications for receiving night differentials further reinforce this categorization. Depending on whether you work the night shift or the evening shift, you may receive night differentials that may reach from seven percent to ten percent.
The OPM defined night differentials as follows: “Night shift differential means the differential paid for work performed when the majority of a prevailing rate employee’s regularly scheduled non-overtime hours fall between 3 PM and 8 AM. It is computed as a percentage of the employee’s rate of basic pay.”