Semi-continuous systems are ones which have breaks between periods of continuous cover. Typically, the continuous cover would be part of a week, say 6 or 5 days, followed by a break of 1 or 2 days. However, it could be over a longer period, for example 12 days followed by a 2 day break every fortnight. Typical features include:

  • Just one shutdown and restart each week (or other period)
  • Operating hours can usually be extended with overtime
  • The shutdown can be used for maintenance and cleaning
  • Employees have regular rest breaks (usually weekends)

There are an enormous number of options for semi-continuous shift patterns and we can supply you with examples of some of the more common ones.  Each option can be described in the following way:

  • Number of hours of continuous cover (eg. 144 hours for 6 continuous days)
  • Number of hours and times of shutdown (eg. 24 hours, Saturday 18:00 to Sunday 18:00)
  • Number of teams
  • Shift lengths (usually 8 or 12 hours)
  • Cover required through continuous period (eg. one team, more than one team, less than one team)
  • Number of shutdowns during a period (usually one but can be more - see shift pattern examples below)

Flat coverage and a continuous period during each week

The following table shows the average paid weekly hours, based on the assumptions below, for each combination of weekly continuous operating hours and number of teams. Only average weekly paid hours of between 33 and 48 are listed. We can provide you with examples of shift patterns for any of these combinations. 


  • A continuous operation for part of a week, each week
  • One shutdown each each week
  • Full teams rostered on each shift so that staffing levels are constant or "flat" throughout the operating period
  • Paid mealbreaks
  • No handovers between shifts
  • 8-hour shift systems have 8 hours paid per shift
  • 12-hour shift systems have 12 hours paid per shift
  • rotation of all shifts (days and nights) as opposed to fixed shifts - see later notes

Average weekly hours

Average weekly hours = Operating hours / Number of teams











  • Many of the options above can be based on 8 or 12 hour shifts or a mix of 8 and 12 hours
  • 8 hour shift options require a minimum of 3 teams
  • Most options based on a high number of weekly hours, for example, 48 hours, are only feasible with 12 hour shifts
  • The weekly paid hours figures above are reduced if mealbreaks are unpaid or increased if there are handovers between shifts

Half-team systems

The table above includes options for 2.5, 3.5 and 4.5 teams. In these systems, each shift consists of two half-teams which means that, for example, the 2.5 team system is based on 5 half-teams. Each half-team will work with a number of other half-teams over the cycle length of the shift pattern. There are therefore issues regarding supervisory cover and skill mixes.

More than one shutdown during the week

Some systems operate continuously for a number of days but have an additional shift in the middle of the weekly shutdown thus creating two gaps over the week. For example, 4 teams operating over 5.5 days (say, Monday day to Saturday day, inclusive) with a 12-hour day shift on Sunday. This creates two gaps on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Variable staffing levels

The above table for average paid weekly hours is based on the assumption that a full team is rostered on each shift. Sometimes the staffing level requirements can vary through the operating period. If this is the case, and you need some help in devising a shift pattern, then please contact us.

Flat coverage and a continuous period during each fortnight

Some organisations operate for one continuous period and have one shutdown every two weeks. The table above, showing the average paid weekly hours, can be applied to this type of operation but is based on twice the operating hours. So, for example, a 10 day or 240 hours continuous period with a 4 day shutdown every two weeks requires an average of 40 hours per week. Note that:

  • 8 hour shift options require a minimum of 3.5 teams
  • Most options based on a high number of weekly hours are only feasible with 12 hour shifts

We can provide you with examples of shift patterns to match this type of operation.

Dedicated groups on fixed shifts

An alternative approach to having one shift pattern that includes the rotation of all shifts is to have dedicated groups of staff on fixed shifts. This can be done in a number of ways:

  • For 8-hour shifts, three dedicated groups of staff working either earlies, lates or nights
  • For 8-hour shifts, two groups of staff, one working rotating earlies and lates; the other just nights
  • For 12-hour shifts, two dedicated groups of staff working either days or nights
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