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Hours of Work

Questions and answers

Under chapter 61 of title 5, United States Code, agencies have discretionary authority to allow use flexible work schedules. Under a flexible work schedule, a full-time employee may complete their hour biweekly basic work requirement by determining their own work schedule (i.e., work starting and stopping times and breaks) within the limits set by the agency. An agency may limit the number of basic work requirement hours an employee may work on a daily basis (such as, no more than 10 hours per day) or in a workweek. Also, agency-established limits include core hours when an employee is required by the agency to be present for work and flexible hours (or “flexible time bands”) during which the employee may choose to vary their arrival and departure times. (As a minimum requirement, a flexible work schedule must have at least 2 core hours on each of 2 workdays within a biweekly pay period.) An agency may determine whether an unpaid meal break is generally required as part of a flexible work schedule. Under certain flexible work schedules (e.g., maxiflex), an employee may have longer workdays and work less than 10 workdays biweekly or have shorter workdays and work more than the 10 workdays biweekly (e.g., work on Saturday). A flexible work schedule can help an employee to balance work and personal responsibilities/preferences. For example, an employee may wish to adjust working hours to accommodate doctor appointments, dependent care issues, or other family issues. Bargaining unit employees may participate in flexible work schedules only to the extent provided for in a collective bargaining agreement. (See OPM Handbook on Alternative Work Schedules and OPM’s fact sheet Alternative Flexible Work Schedules.)

An agency may approve a flexible work schedule that has an 8-hour daily basic work requirement but allows work to be performed during flexible time bands (e.g., 6:00 am and 10:00 p.m.) during periods chosen by the employee, except that the employee must work during designated core hours. An agency could establish a flexible time band that covers the entire day. In determining flexible time bands, an agency should consider the effects - positive and negative - on the accomplishment of the agency mission.

An agency may approve a flexible work schedule that has a 40-hour weekly basic work requirement but allows the employee to vary by day the work hours performed (e.g., an employee could work for 5 days as follows: 10 hours, 7 hours, 8 hours, 9 hours, and 6 hours). The employee must work during designated core hours and may not work outside of established flexible time bands. To avoid being required to pay premium pay, an agency would likely not allow an employee to voluntarily choose to perform basic work requirement hours on Sunday or a holiday. But in appropriate circumstances an agency could establish flexible time bands that cover all hours on Monday through Saturday (excluding holidays). In determining flexible time bands, an agency should consider the effects on the accomplishment of the agency mission.

An agency may approve a flexible work schedule that has an 80-hour biweekly basic work requirement but allows the employee to vary by day and/or week the work hours performed. For example, an employee could work 44 hours over 5 days in one week and 36 hours over 4 days in the second week. Also, an employee could be allowed to choose to have shorter workdays and work more than the normal 10 workdays biweekly (e.g., work on Saturday). An agency could establish a maxiflex schedule with minimal core hours (2 core hours on each of 2 workdays in the biweekly pay period) and flexible time bands that cover all hours on Monday through Saturday (excluding holidays). In determining flexible time bands, an agency should consider the effects on the accomplishment of the agency mission.

For employees on a flexible work schedule, overtime work hours must be officially ordered in advance by an authorized agency official. Hours that an employee works beyond the normal 8-hour daily and 40-hour weekly overtime thresholds at the employee’s choice are not overtime hours of work (5 U.S.C. 6121(6)). Hours worked voluntarily by an employee beyond those overtime thresholds are non-overtime basic work requirement hours if performed within agency-established limits. However, if an employee exceeds those overtime thresholds because of work officially ordered in advance by an authorized agency official, the employee would be entitled to overtime pay for those work hours. Any overtime hours of work may not be included as part of an employee’s basic work requirement hours (5 U.S.C. 6121(3)).

An agency may adopt policies allowing employees to earn credit hours for hours worked voluntarily in excess of the employee’s daily or weekly basic work requirement, resulting in hours in excess of the employee’s biweekly basic work requirement (e.g., 80 hours for a full-time employee). The accumulated balance of credit hours for a full-time employee that may be carried over into the next pay period may not exceed 24 hours or any lower agency limit. Credit hours may only be earned for work performed during the established flexible time bands. An employee may use credit hours during future basic work requirement hours, subject to supervisory approval and any agency policies that bar use in the same week or pay period.

Normally, night pay for General Schedule employees is payable for any regularly scheduled hours of work between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. (see 5 U.S.C. 5545(a) and 5 CFR 550.121-550.122). However, special rules apply to night pay for employees on a flexible work schedule. For such an employee, agencies must pay night pay for those hours that must be worked between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. in order to allow the employee to complete a daily tour of duty of at least 8 hours. Agencies must also pay night pay for any non-overtime work performed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. during designated core hours. (See 5 U.S.C. 6123(c).) In other words, if an employee has 8 or more hours available for work during daytime hours (i.e., between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.) within agency-established limits on when basic work requirement hours may be performed, they are not entitled to night pay because they are voluntarily electing to work during hours for which night pay is normally required (i.e., between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.). No night pay is payable for basic work requirement (non-overtime) hours if there are 8 hours available to be worked in the flexible time bands outside of the nighttime hours, and no core hours are required during night hours. Night pay is payable for regularly scheduled overtime work during night hours.