Following are highlights of recent OPM guidance on use of compressed and flexible work schedules. While the guidance was presented in the context of encouraging more use of such alternate work schedules in the Washington, D.C. area due to commuting disruptions because of a rail transit maintenance project, the policies in general apply government-wide.

Alternative Work Schedules (AWS) include both compressed and flexible work schedules. A compressed work schedule is a fixed schedule that has no flexibility. A flexible work schedule is a schedule consisting of workdays with core hours and flexible hours. See below for additional information and examples of AWS schedules.

When choosing to implement or change an AWS, agencies must review any applicable collective bargaining agreement and become familiar with the various schedules permitted under the contract. Employees represented by a union may participate in a flexible or compressed work schedule “only to the extent expressly provided under a collective bargaining agreement between the agency and the exclusive representative.” (See 5 U.S.C. 6130(a)(2).) While an agency and union may, in many cases and by mutual agreement, expand such work schedules for bargaining unit employees; there are a variety of factors agencies should consider before doing so. These factors include, but are not limited to, whether a feasibility study is needed, whether the expansion should be done on a trial basis, and whether the agreement will permit the agency to terminate the program without showing an “adverse agency impact” as described in 5 U.S.C. 6131.

Types of AWS

1. Compressed Work Schedules (CWS)

A compressed work schedule (CWS) is a fixed schedule that has no flexibility. Start and stop times are clearly defined and leave must be taken if work is not accomplished during this period. In the case of a full-time employee, a CWS consists of an 80-hour biweekly basic work requirement that is scheduled by an agency for less than 10 workdays; and in the case of a part-time employee, a CWS consists of a biweekly basic work requirement of less than 80 hours that is scheduled by an agency for less than 10 workdays and that may require the employee to work more than 8 hours in a day. (See 5 U.S.C. 6121(5).)

Components of a CWS:

• Basic Work Requirement – The number of hours, excluding overtime hours, an employee is required to work or to account for by charging leave or otherwise.

• Fixed Starting and Stopping Times – The tour of duty for employees under a CWS program is defined by a fixed schedule established by the agency.

• No Flexibility – Employees have no flexibility in arrival or departure times.

2. Flexible Work Schedules (FWS)

A flexible work schedule (FWS) allows an employee to complete an 80-hour biweekly basic work requirement by determining his or her own schedule within the limits set by the agency. Agencies may also establish daily or weekly basic work requirements. Agencies may expand the types of FWS that are available to employees as different types of schedules provide different degrees of flexibility.

Components of an FWS:

• Basic Work Requirement – The basic work requirement consists of workdays with core hours and flexible hours. (See 5 U.S.C. 6122(a).)

• Core Hours – Core hours are the designated period of the day when all employees must be at work. An employee must account for missed core hours (if permitted) with leave, credit hours, or compensatory time off.

• Flexible Hours – Flexible hours (flexible time bands) are those hours during which an employee covered by an FWS may choose to vary his or her times of arrival to and departure from the work site consistent with the duties and requirements of the position. (See 5 U.S.C. 6122(a)(2).) An agency may establish limitations on when basic work requirement hours may be performed—e.g., the days of the week on which an employee may perform such hours and limits on the number of such hours on a given day.

• Credit Hours – Agency FWS policies may allow employees to earn credit hours. Credit hours are hours that an employee elects to work, with supervisory approval, in excess of the employee’s basic work requirement under an FWS. Credit hours can only be earned during the established flexible hours (flexible time bands). An employee may use credit hours during a subsequent day, week, or pay period, with supervisory approval, to allow the employee to be absent from an equal number of hours of the employee’s basic work requirement with no loss of basic pay. Employees may not accumulate more than 24 credit hours at any one time.

See below for examples of potential types of FWS. Please note these examples are illustrative and not all-inclusive.

• Flexitour – Employees select arrival and departure times subject to agency approval. (This results in a fixed schedule until the next selection period, as determined by the agency.) A full-time employee must work 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, and 80 hours a biweekly pay period.

• Gliding – Employees may vary arrival and departure times on a daily basis during the established flexible hours. A full-time employee must work 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, and 80 hours a biweekly pay period.

• Variable Day – Employees may vary arrival and departure times on a daily basis during the established flexible hours along with the length of the workday. (An agency may limit the number of hours an employee may work on a daily basis.) A full-time employee must work 40 hours a week.

• Variable Week – Employees may vary arrival and departure times on a daily basis during the established flexible hours. Employees may also vary the length of the workday and the workweek. (An agency may limit the number of hours an employee may work on a daily basis. A full-time employee must work 80 hours in a biweekly pay period.

• Maxiflex – Employees may vary arrival and departure times on a daily basis during the established flexible hours. An employee may also vary the length of the workday and the workweek. (An agency may limit the number of hours an employee may work on a daily basis.) An employee may work less than 10 workdays biweekly because of the absence of core hours on one of the normal workdays. A full-time employee must work 80 hours in a biweekly pay period.

Other AWS Issues for Agencies to Consider

Overtime

• FWS: Overtime hours are all hours of work in excess of 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week which are officially ordered in advance by management. (See the definition of “overtime hours” at 5 U.S.C. 6121(6).) Hours within an employee’s basic work requirement are not overtime hours even if they exceed an applicable daily or weekly overtime threshold.

• CWS: For employees under a CWS program who are exempt from the FLSA, overtime hours are all officially ordered and approved hours of work in excess of the compressed work schedule. For full-time employees who are covered by the FLSA (nonexempt), overtime hours also include any hours worked outside the compressed work schedule that are “suffered or permitted.” (See 5 U.S.C. 6121(7).)

Compensatory Time Off in lieu of Overtime

• FWS: An agency may grant compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay at the request of the employee under an FWS for overtime hours of work that are regularly scheduled or irregular or occasional. (See 5 U.S.C. 6123(a) and 5 CFR 550.114(b).)

• CWS: An agency may grant compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay at the request of the employee under a CWS for irregular or occasional overtime. (See 5 U.S.C. 5543(a)(1) and 5 CFR 550.114(a).)

Night Pay:

• FWS: Agencies must pay night pay for those hours that must be worked between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. to complete an 8-hour daily tour of duty. Agencies must also pay night pay for any nonovertime work performed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. during designated core hours. (See 5 U.S.C. 6123(c).)

• CWS: An employee is entitled to night pay for regularly scheduled night work performed between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. (See 5 U.S.C. 5545(a).)

Holiday Premium Pay

• FWS: A full-time employee who performs non-overtime work on a holiday (or a day designated as the “in lieu of” holiday under 5 U.S.C. 6103(b) or section 3 of E.O. 11582) is entitled to his or her rate of basic pay plus premium pay equal to his or her rate of basic pay for that holiday work. Holiday premium pay is limited to a maximum of 8 hours. (See 5 U.S.C. 5546(b).)

• CWS: A full-time employee who performs nonovertime work on a holiday (or a day designated as the “in lieu of” holiday under 5 U.S.C. 6103(b) or (d) or section 3 of E.O. 11582) is entitled to basic pay plus premium pay equal to his or her rate of basic pay for the work that is not in excess of the employee’s compressed work schedule for that day. (See 5 U.S.C. 6128(d) and 5 CFR 610.407.)

Sunday Premium Pay

• FWS: An employee is entitled to Sunday premium pay for up to 8 hours of his or her basic work requirement based on electing to work flexible hours during a basic tour of duty that begins or ends on Sunday. (See 5 U.S.C. 5546(a) and 5 CFR 550.171.) However, an agency may preclude employees from working flexible hours during a basic tour of duty that begins or ends on Sunday.

• CWS: An employee is entitled to Sunday premium pay for all non-overtime hours the employee works during each regularly scheduled basic tour of duty that begins or ends on Sunday. (See 5 U.S.C. 6128(c).)