The 2 Tricky SCHADS Allowances that Catch Employers Off Guard

Jenny's commitment to fair pay at her home care business was tested when a Fair Work audit revealed underpayments due to misinterpreted allowances, leading to significant fines. Her story underscores the critical need for employers to fully grasp allowance details to avoid similar pitfalls.

This article is from our partners at Pay Cat, a member of our trusted network. Pay Cat is the legally compliant SCHADS Award payroll software for NDIS businesses. Discover more about our trusted partners

Jenny runs a small home care business employing 12 support workers under the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services (SCHADS) Award. She prides herself on treating staff fairly and paying them properly. 

But when a routine Fair Work audit uncovered underpayments related to broken shifts and sleepovers, Jenny was shocked. 

Despite her best intentions, she'd underpaid three workers over $5,000 in allowances over two years. With back-pay and penalties, Jenny ended up with a $15,000 bill that put her business on the brink.

Unfortunately, Jenny's story is all too common. 

Even conscientious employers easily trip up over broken shifts and sleepover allowances without realising it.

So, here’s what you need to know about these two allowances to avoid being caught up on the wrong side of a Fair Work audit. 

Broken Shift Allowances

A broken shift is where the employee's work hours are split into two or more work periods throughout the day with one or more breaks in between - excluding their regular meal breaks.

For example, an employee might work from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., take a 4-hour break, and then work again from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

This would be considered a broken shift under the Award.

Broken shifts are standard in the home care and disability services sectors, as client needs often require staff to work split shifts to cover morning and evening routines.

Key Broken Shift Rules 

The Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Award sets out specific rules around broken shifts to protect employees.

Maximum Hours

A broken shift can span a maximum of 12 hours from the shift start time to the shift end time. This includes break times in between. Any hours worked beyond a 12 hour span are paid at double time rates.

For example, let’s say you have an employee who works their first shift from 8am to 11am, takes a break from 11am to 5pm, and then resumes work from 5pm to 10pm. 

Despite only working eight hours, the final two hours must be paid at double their ordinary rate under the Award, as the total span of the broken shift exceeded 12 hours (from 8am to 10pm). 

We see a lot of employers commonly make the mistake of only paying their staff double the rate if they work more than 12 hours across their broken shifts. But, it applies to the span of hours across the broken shifts, not how many hours they work. 

Breaks Between Shifts 

Employees must receive at least a 10 hour break between broken shifts when working broken shifts on consecutive days. This ensures adequate rest between shifts. This is 8 hours if the last shift was a sleepover shift.

Allowance Rate

Beyond the rules listed above, you are required to pay for a broken shift in addition to the employee's hourly base rate of pay. 

The allowance compensates staff for the inconvenience of working a fragmented shift and is dependent on how many unpaid breaks they have:

  • If it’s one unpaid break, you must pay them $19.39 per broken shift

  • You must pay them $25.67 per broken shift if it's two unpaid breaks. 

Note: The above allowance amounts are for the 2023-24 financial year. These amounts are updated annually to be in line with the updated minimum wage amount under the Award. Please ensure that you apply the amount relevant to the applicable financial year. You can use the wage summaries on the Fair Work website to confirm

Sleepover Shifts 

A sleepover shift is when a home care or disability support employee is required to sleep overnight at a client's premises. The worker is then available to perform work if the client needs assistance during the night.

For example, a support worker may sleepover at a client's home with complex needs to monitor them or provide care if the client wakes up at night.

Key Sleepover Rules 

Like with broken shifts, the Award contains specific provisions around sleepover shifts to protect employees:

  • Sleepover shifts have a maximum continuous span of 8 hours. Any hours worked beyond eight continuous hours are paid as overtime.

  • You’ll need to provide your employee with a separate room with a bed and the necessary facilities, like a bathroom and a kitchen or kitchenette, if the shift ends up being eight consecutive hours. 

  • If they are required to perform any specific duties while staying the night, they must be paid a minimum overtime rate of one hour. 

  • if they have to work immediately before or after the sleepover (in other words, they get no break), then you should pay them for a minimum of four hours - even if they don’t work the entire four hours.

For example, Lucy is a disability support worker who works a sleepover shift caring for a client in their home. She arrives at 8 p.m. to assist the client with their evening routine and preparations for bed. At 10 p.m., the client goes to sleep, and Jenny goes to the separate bedroom provided to try and get some rest.

At 2 am, Lucy is woken by the client calling for assistance. She spends 30 minutes helping the client use the bathroom and get a drink before the client goes back to sleep. Lucy then tries to sleep again until 6 am when she gets up to help the client with her morning routines. She works with the client until 8 am.

Lucy’s sleepover shift runs from 8 pm to 8 am in this situation, spanning 12 hours total.

However, of those 12 hours, only 7.5 hours pertained to the “sleepover” - which is within the maximum span of eight hours. 

So, Jenny's employer also needs to pay her:

  • The sleepover allowance for the 10pm to 6 am sleepover period

  • Minimum 1 hour overtime for the work done from 2 am to 2:30 am

  • Minimum 4 hours pay for the shift work done immediately before (8 pm to 10 pm) or after (6 am to 8 am) the sleepover. This only applies to one side of the sleepover.

Allowance Rates

Irrespective of the rules listed above, if you require an employee to sleep overnight at a client’s, you will need to pay them a sleepover allowance of $55.89 for each sleepover. 

Note: The above allowance amount is for the 2023-24 financial year. This amount is updated annually to be in line with the updated minimum wage amount under the Award. Please ensure that you apply the amount relevant to the applicable financial year. You can use the wage summaries on the Fair Work website to confirm

Why These Allowances Catch Employers Off Guard

There are a few reasons why even well-intentioned employers struggle to apply the intricate broken shift and sleepover allowances properly. The detailed rules around shift spans, breaks, and allowance calculations are complex and easily misinterpreted. 

It's easy to overlook a key detail like paying sleepover allowances even for uninterrupted sleep. Additionally, relying on manual rostering and payroll processes makes compliance difficult without automation. And when errors are found, back-pay bills with Fair Work penalties can seriously impact small businesses.

Businesses can implement automated workforce management technology to avoid the common pitfalls and costs associated with broken shifts and sleepover allowance compliance. 

Solutions like ShiftCare, paired with legally compliant integrated payroll software that interprets awards, can schedule staff while remaining compliant with complex allowances. 

By configuring the software appropriately and keeping employee agreements on file, managers can ensure staff are paid correctly for broken shifts, sleepovers and other intricate entitlements.

Automation provides transparency and accuracy, reducing the risk of underpayments that lead to back-pay claims. 


Working broken shifts and sleepovers under the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Award is wrought with compliance intricacies that trip up employers. Key points include:

  • Broken shifts can span 12 hours with minimum 10 hour breaks and attract an allowance based on 1 or 2 breaks

  • Sleepovers have an 8 hour limit before overtime, and there are rules around minimum payments

  • Allowances apply even if no work is done overnight

  • SCHADS provisions intersect with overtime rates in certain situations

With such complex requirements, even small oversights can lead to underpayments. For time and resource poor SCHADS businesses, implementing workforce management software is key to guaranteeing accuracy.

Solutions like ShiftCare integrated with Pay Cat's SCHADS payroll automation can schedule staff compliantly while ensuring correct allowances. 

If you need help understanding your obligations or implementing technology, book a demo today to find out more.

Like this story? Share it with others.

You may also like these stories

Start your free 7 day trial.

Deliver a higher standard of care, all from just $9 per user a month.


Support Rating


Hours Scheduled


Clients Supported


Revenue Generated

Would you like to visit our site?