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Alternative Work Schedules

If you would like more flexibility schedule and/or the opportunity to get an extra day for personal errands and activities, an Alternative Work Schedule might be for you!

The availability of AWS varies by Operating Unit. Many offer some or all of the options described on this page, while others may choose not to offer them at all if such schedules are determined to have a bad effect on productivity, service to the public, or cost. Finally, even if your Operating Unit offers AWS, your actual work schedule is at the discretion of your supervisor. So if you want to change your work schedule or work an AWS, always check with your supervisor!

AWS Essentials

  • Alternative work schedules are established for entire groups of employees; individuals can’t request and work alternative schedules unless they have been approved for their operating unit as a whole.
  • If your unit is on a compressed schedule, and that causes a hardship for you, you can ask to be exempted from the schedule.

There are two types of alternative work schedules: compressed and flexible.

A compressed schedule involves longer but fewer work days, so that you can complete a full 80 hours during each biweekly pay period in less than 10 work days.

A flexible schedule includes a variety of options, all involving certain core hours during which everyone must be present, coupled with flexible arrival and departure times. Credit hours are another element of flexible schedules.

Compressed Schedules

These schedules are fixed; there’s no flexibility about when you report to work and leave each day. Once established, your schedule does not change.

There are several ways in which a compressed schedule can work. The two most common are:

  • 5-4/9 in which you work 8 9-hour days and 1 8-hour day in the pay period and get an extra day off.
  • 4-10 in which you work 4 10-hour days each week of the pay period and have an extra day of each week.

In every case, you will work a total of 80 hours during each biweekly pay period. The advantage is that you will have extra days off.

Flexible Schedules

As the name implies, flexible schedules are more flexible. But that doesn’t mean you can come and go at any time; you work out a schedule with your supervisor and adhere to the schedule.

Flexible schedules all have two things in common: core hours, during which you and all others in your unit must be at work; and flexible times bands which are the times you can vary to arrive and depart from work.

There are 5 types of flexible work schedules:

  1. Maxiflex - the most flexible schedule.
    • Contains core hours (during which you must be at work) which are established on fewer than 10 workdays during each biweekly pay period. (In some cases, there may be no core hours at all.)
    • Schedules may include more hours in one week than the next.
    • The basic requirement is to complete 80 hours of work during each biweekly pay period.
  2. Variable Week - Daily and weekly flexibility.
    • Basic requirement to complete 80 hours in each biweekly pay period.
    • Must work during core hours on each of the 10 workdays in the pay period.
    • Flexibility is in the number of hours you work each day and each week.
    • Schedules can vary from week to week and day to day, with more hours worked in one week than the other. 
  3. Variable Day - Daily flexibility
    • Schedule can vary each day around the core hours, but you have to complete 40 hours each workweek.
    • Can’t work fewer hours one week than the other during a biweekly pay period.
    • Schedule could have varied hours on different days. For example: 3 10-hour days, and two 5-hour days each week, as long as you were on the job during the core hours established for your unit during the short days. You are not paid overtime for the two extra hours on each 10-hour day; instead, those hours are counted as “base hours” and used to make up the 40-hour weekly work requirement.
  4. Gliding - Flexibility is in arrival and departure times.
    • Work 8 hours each day and 40 hours each week.
    • Can vary the times you arrive and leave work each day, as long as you’re there during the established core hours.
  5. Flexi tour 
    • Almost the same as a gliding schedule.
    • Work 8 hours each day and 40 hours each week.
    • Schedule is the same every day until a formal opportunity for changing it arises. 

Credit Hours

These are extra hours that you work in excess of the basic work requirement under a flexible schedule. You can use credit hours on another day, week, or pay period to be absent from work with no loss of pay. When you use credit hours, they are treated just like regular time worked so you get your regular pay for them.

You don’t receive overtime pay for these hours because they’re not ordered by management; they’re chosen by you.

Some employees working flexible schedules may not be allowed to earn credit hours, since it’s a management decision to let employees work them.

Total Number of Credit Hours and Payment

You can only carry over 24 credit hours per pay period, if you’re a full-time employee.

Part-time employees can carry over less - the carryover of a part-time employee is limited to one-fourth of the employee’s biweekly basic work requirement.

If you leave your job, or no longer work a flexible schedule, you will be paid (at your basic rate) for credit hours that haven’t been used. If you transfer to another job in the Department that has a flexible work schedule and allows you to earn and use credit hours, you may be able to carry accrued credit hours with you to the new job.

Excused Absences and AWS

For a flexible schedule:

  • If a holiday falls on a day when you would have worked more than 8 hours, you can only receive 8 hours for the holiday. The time that you miss above 8 hours has to be made up somehow; if not with accrued credit hours, then through accrued compensatory time, accrued compensatory time off for travel, restored annual leave, or annual leave.
  • If a closure occurs on a day when you would have worked more than 8 hours, you receive the number of hours you were scheduled to work on that day.

For a compressed schedule:

  • If a holiday falls on a 9-hour day, you will receive the full 9-hours. So excused absence for holidays will be equal to the hours you were scheduled to work.
  • The same is true for things like building closures due to inclement weather. If you were scheduled to work 10 hours under your compressed work schedule, you’ll be granted 10 hours of excused absence.

Replacement Holidays when Holidays Non-Work Days

If you’re working either a compressed or flexible work schedule, and a holiday falls on a day you are not scheduled to work, then you will be given the preceding workday off instead. This is true even if the replacement holiday is in a different pay period.

The exception is a holiday that falls on a Sunday when you were not scheduled to work; in that case your next scheduled workday will be your replacement day off. However, the head of your agency can handle this differently if the plan described here would have a bad impact on service to the public, productivity, or cost.

If you’re a part-time employee, you will not be given a replacement day off for holidays that fall on days when you’re not scheduled to work.

Premium Pay and AWS

Entitlement to overtime, compensatory time, and differentials varies based on your work schedule.

For a Flexible Schedule:

  • Overtime - is the hours of work in excess of 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week.
    • Must be officially ordered by management and you may be ordered to work more hours than the number of hours you had planned to work on a day. If this results in your working more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week, you may be paid overtime for the extra hours worked. If the hours ordered are not in excess of 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week at the time you work them, you may be allowed:
      • Time off from work on a subsequent workday for a period of time equal to the number of extra hours of work ordered; and/or
      • To use the extra time work to make up your basic work requirement.
  • Compensatory time – is in lieu of overtime for irregular or occasional overtime.
    • If you work a flexible schedule, the time worked can be scheduled to occur on a regular basis (regularly scheduled) or irregular or occasional in nature.
    • You can be granted compensatory time off in lieu of the overtime pay if you request it. However, compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay may not be required for:
      • A prevailing rate employee
      • An employee covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), or non-exempt
      • An employee exempt from FLSA whose rate of basic pay is equal to or less than the rate for GS-10, step 10.
      • If you are FLSA exempt and your rate of basic pay exceeds the GS-10, step 10 rate, you can be ordered to have mandatory compensatory time off, instead of overtime pay. OPM has more information on these special situations at http://opm.gov/oca/aws/html/flex.asp
  • Sunday premium pay – pays your base rate plus a 25% differential
    • If you are scheduled to work on a Sunday, you will receive Sunday pay for the time you work, but only for 8 hours. If you work more than 8 hours, the additional hours will be paid at your basic rate.
  • Night differential – pays your base rate plus a 10% differential
    • If you are regularly schedule to work during a night shift from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
    • will not be paid night differential pay under a flexible work schedule for hours you choose to work before 6 a.m. or after 6 p.m. if there are 8 or more hours available for work during daytime hours.
  • Holiday pay – pays you your base rate for time worked on a holiday
    • If you are required to work on a holiday, you’ll get paid your base rate for the number of hours actually worked up to what you were scheduled to work for that day. You’ll also get paid for your regular hours of excused absence at your base rate. Any hours worked over what you were scheduled to work on that day can be overtime or compensatory time, paid at the overtime rate.

For a Compressed AWS

  • Overtime – is the hours of work in excess of the biweekly work schedule
    • If you are exempt from FLSA, overtime hours are the hours of work in excess of the biweekly compressed work schedule and must be officially ordered by management.
    • If you are a full-time FLSA non-exempt employee, overtime hours also includes hours worked outside the compressed work schedule that are "suffered or permitted." This means that if you work beyond your schedule and your supervisor knows it and does not stop it, you are entitled to overtime for the time worked.
  • Compensatory time – may only be requested in lieu of overtime pay for irregular or occasional overtime work.
    • Mandatory compensatory time off is allowed for FLSA exempt employees (not prevailing rate) whose rate of basic pay is greater than the rate for GS-10, step 10, and only in lieu of overtime pay for irregular or occasional overtime work. For more information see OPM’s website: http://opm.gov/oca/aws/html/comp.asp
  • Sunday premium pay – pays your base rate plus a 25% differential
    • You’re paid Sunday pay for hours worked (other than overtime hours) if your shift begins or ends on Sunday. You’ll be paid night pay for all work hours scheduled between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Night differential pays your base rate plus a 10 % differential
    • You will receive night differential pay for the number of hours you are scheduled work between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
  • Holiday pay works the same as for employees on flexible AWS.


  • In connection with travel and training. If you’re on official travel or taking training, your AWS can be temporarily changed to a standard schedule (e.g., 8:30-5:00) for the duration of the travel or training.
  • For Senior Executive Service employees. Although SES employees can work an alternative schedule, they may not earn credit hours.
  • Time-keeping. If you work an alternative schedule, you will probably be asked to document your arrival and departure times via the webTA application or you may be asked to sign-in/out.