ESL Issues: No. 3- The Split Shift

It seems that nothing is harder to take from your employer than when he has absolutely no respect for your time, your life, and any hours of the day that should be your own. This is the situation of the split shift.

If you do not know what the split shift means, please allow me a moment to explain. The split shift is when your usual eight hour work day is broken into two pieces. Maybe you start work at 9:00am and then stop at 12:00pm. You get a one hour break, but then you don’t come back to work until 4:00pm, and from there you work the other five hours of the day. In this case, your working day will end at 9:00pm. Twelve hours later you are back at work.

Don’t you dare leave that office!

In the split shift you are told by your employer, “The hours in the middle of the day are yours!”

Sounds great? Not really. After you have gotten out of bed, prepared yourself for work, traveled to work and are probably away from all the places you would go in your off-hours you probably have no place to go. So what do you do? Go to the gym? Hang out in an internet cafe until you start work again? Stay in the office and goof off? In any of these cases, you are not really free. If you were to go home and change out of your clothes you would have to get re-dressed and then travel back to work.

Sadly, this is an all-too-common practice of employers who do not value your time, value your schedule, and somehow believe that your only purpose to be around is to work for them. This is not correct. At englishbiz, we believe that our teachers and staff need time to be with their friends and families. They need time to go and pursue hobbies or down-time. They need time to socialize and to make friends. They do not have be tethered to the school for twelve hours of the day, with a big “break” right in the middle.

In no case this should be acceptable, except in the case where the teacher is paid per hour and at a substantial rate, and this kind of schedule is one where both sides agree. For salaried positions, this kind of abuse of time is not acceptable and is a sign you are not working for someone who has empathy for others.


Another sneaky abuse of staff time is the “travel time” between locations if classes are not all taught at the same place. In these cases, some employers tell you that the travel time in the middle of the day is uncounted and unpaid. You may also be encouraged to just have your lunch on the bus or train as you move from place to place. Here again, this does not sound like a professional environment to be working in. Teachers deserve much more than this, and it is a “soft version” of the split-shift scheme.

To make matters worse, there will be, particularly in some larger schools and organizations, one or two staff who cheerfully agree with such an employer’s expectations. They say things like, “Well, I would just work more at home anyway,” or “I think this is what I need to do to get ahead here.” That may be partially true, but what it does is create a very anti-social work environment where people are afraid to have a life outside of their work. It is already too much that cell phones keep us umbilically attached to employers, but when your “competition” at work is already planning on how to dig your grave in an environment where continual accessibility is expected, there is only so long you can hang in there before you burn out.

The only proper way to hire a full time employee is to carve out a nine consecutive hour block of time. There is work, there is a one hour lunch break, there is work. Working time comes to eight full hours. Lunch is one hour. That is how most of the world works, and it is the way things should be done for a professional working environment.

Also, there should be ZERO overtime. But that is material for another blog. Stay tuned!!

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