Alternate work schedules (AWS) is an umbrella term that refers to compressed work schedules and flexible work schedules.
Compressed work schedule means a fixed work schedule (no flexible time bands) in which an employee can complete the biweekly work requirement in less than 10 working days.
Flexible schedule means one of several types of work schedules all of which comprise core hours and flexible time bands.
Core hours is a term used in the context of flexible work schedules. It refers to the scheduled hours of the workday during which an employee must either be present at work, on leave, or using credit hours.
Flexible time band refers to the time periods on either side of core hours during the workday, workweek or pay period within the tour of duty in which an employee can vary arrival and departure time or work credit hours.
Credit hours is a term used in the context of flexible work schedules only. It refers to the non-overtime hours which an employee elects to work, with supervisory approval, during the flexible time band in the same or another day in order to have an equal amount of time off on another day (see discussion below).
Basic work requirement means the number of non-overtime hours an employee must work or account for by leave before being eligible for overtime.
Subject to the obligation to negotiate with exclusive bargaining unit representatives, heads of operating units (and those to whom they have delegated authority) have authority to establish, modify, and terminate AWS plans. If a proposed or existing AWS plan is deemed to have an adverse agency impact, it may not be established, must be modified (e.g., an employee or group of employees must be excluded, the use of credit hours must be restricted, etc.) or it must be terminated. Note that an “adverse agency impact” is defined as: (1) a reduction of an agency's productivity; (2) a diminished level of services furnished to the public; or (3) an increase in the cost of agency operations (other than the administrative costs to process the establishment of an AWS program).
There is no authority to establish hybrid work schedules using the authorities for flexible and compressed work schedules in an attempt to create hybrid work schedules that provide unauthorized benefits for employees (see Comptroller General report B-179810, December 4, 1979, and 50 FLRA No. 28, February 23, 1995). Note however that some forms of flexible work schedules, such as maxiflex or flexible 5/4-9 schedules, allow work to be compressed in fewer than 10 workdays in a biweekly pay period.
Content of AWS Plans
A properly documented AWS plan will identify:
- The organizational units/components covered by the plan;
- The employees covered or excluded by the plan;
- The conditions and procedures for restricting or denying individual employees or groups of employees from participation in the plan;
- The types of flexible and compressed work schedules permitted, and the specifics of each (e.g., flexible work schedules must define core and flexible time bands and the degree of flexibility permitted);
- A provision for credit hours, as appropriate;
- A description of the time accounting system to be used;
- The titles of the persons responsible for administration of the plan;
- The procedures for modifying or terminating the AWS plan; and
- The preceding information for each organizational element that is scheduled differently.
Since flexible schedules are highly adaptable, employees' special needs can usually be accommodated easily. However, not every employee can work within the compressed work schedule environment since it entails a prolonged day and the schedule is fixed. Absent an employee organization with exclusive bargaining rights, an employee cannot be required to participate in a compressed work schedule unless a majority of the employees of the unit have voted to be included.
When a compressed work schedule imposes a personal hardship, an employee may make a written request to the plan manager to be excepted from the schedule. By law, a manager must make a determination on the request within 10 days of its receipt. Either the employee must be excepted from participation in the compressed work schedule or reassigned to the first vacant position outside the program which is acceptable to the employee and for which he or she is qualified.
Two Categories of AWS Schedules
There are two categories of AWS schedules: compressed and flexible. Whether an employee is under a compressed or a flexible work schedule determines the applicable overtime standard and the employee's night pay, holiday pay, or excused absence entitlement.
Compressed work schedules are fixed schedules. Under a compressed work schedule an employee must complete the 80-hour basic work requirement in less than 10 work days. For example, by working four 10-hour days for each of two weeks in a pay period or eight 9-hour days and one 8-hour day for a total of nine days in a pay period. A compressed work schedule, by definition, has no flexible time bands, no core hours and no allowance for credit hours. An employee may not vary the daily or weekly tour in any way.
Flexible work schedules consist of core hours (including a non-compensable lunch period) and flexible time bands. In a flexible environment, employees must be present during core hours but they can deviate from a specified arrival and departure time and work credit hours during the flexible time band. Depending on the kind of flexible schedule worked by the employee, the work requirement may be 8 hours in a day and/or 40 in a week, or 80 in a pay period. In all cases, overtime hours are hours of work which are officially ordered in advance and which are in excess of 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. Any hours in excess of 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week which are not officially ordered in advance will be deemed credit hours. There is no “suffered and permitted” concept of overtime under a flexible AWS.
Under a flexible work schedule, management can establish different core hours for each day. Consistent with assuring service to the public, core time can be expanded or contracted relative to the outer limits of the organization's work day or to the amount of flexibility that is permitted employees relative to their specified arrival and departure hours. Management may also establish flexible time bands outside of the time bands for arrival/departure for the purpose of earning credit hours.
The following are descriptions of flexible work schedules starting with the most flexible and ending with the narrowest type of flexible work schedule:
A maxiflex schedule is a type of flexible work schedule that contains core hours on fewer than 10 workdays in the biweekly pay period. Flexible time bands are established for the start and end of the workday and may also be established midday (during the lunch break). Note that heads of operating units or those with delegated authority may choose not to establish core hours on each workday, thus providing maximum flexibility for employees. A full-time employee has a basic work requirement of 80 hours for the biweekly pay period and must be present for core hours, but may vary the number of hours worked on a given workday or the number of hours each week within the limits established by the unit plan. Note that leave may be granted in excess of 8-hours per day for employees on maxiflex schedules.
A variable week schedule is a type of flexible work schedule containing core hours on each workday in the biweekly pay period. Flexible time bands are established for the start and end of the workday and may also be established midday (during the lunch break). A full-time employee has a basic work requirement of 80 hours for the biweekly pay period and must be present for core hours, but may vary the number of hours worked on a given workday or the number of hours each week within the limits established by the unit plan. The length of each workday and workweek can be varied by credit hours.
A variable day schedule is a type of flexible work schedule containing core hours on each workday in the week. Flexible time bands are established for the start and end of the workday and may also be established midday (during the lunch break). A full-time employee has a basic work requirement of 40 hours in each week of the biweekly pay period and must be present for core hours, but may vary the number of hours worked on a given workday within the week within the limits established by the unit plan. The length of each workday can be varied by credit hours.
A gliding schedule is a type of flexible work schedule that requires the employee to work 8 hours a day and 40 hours each workweek but the employee may vary arrival and departure time on each of the 10 workdays of a pay period within limits established by the unit plan. The employee must be present for core hours. Flexible time bands are established for the start and end of the workday and may also be established midday (during the lunch break). A gliding schedule may provide for credit hours.
A flexitour is a type of flexible work schedule that requires the employee to work 8 hours a day and 40 hours each workweek. The employee may choose his or her arrival and departure time. Once chosen, the employee must keep to the same schedule until the next opportunity to select a different schedule arises. The employee must be present for core hours. Flexible time bands are established for the start and end of the workday. A flexitour schedule may provide for credit hours.
Credit hours are base (non-overtime) hours which an employee on a flexible work schedule elects to work within a flexible time band in and in excess of the basic work requirement in order to have an equal amount of time off on the same or another day, workweek or pay period. Credit hours are peculiar to flexible work schedules and may not be earned by employees on compressed work schedules since a compressed work schedule is a fixed schedule. In addition, credit hours may not be earned for by Senior Executive Service members nor for any government-related training that is scheduled and required by the agency.
Credit Hours Not Overtime. Credit hours earned should not be confused with overtime hours earned. Overtime hours are hours of work which management officially orders or approves in advance and which are in excess of 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. Credit hours are base hours which the employee elects to work so as to vary the length of a workday, workweek or pay period. Credit hours may not be the basis for overtime pay or compensatory time. When an employee separates from the Federal government, unused credit hours are paid at the employee's base rate.
Credit Hour Carryover. The law does not set any limits on the number of credit hours that an employee can earn in any pay period. The employing organization may limit the number of credit hours that an employee may earn in a day, a week, or a pay period. However, by law a full-time employee may not carry over more than 24 credit hours per pay period. The carryover of a part-time employee is limited to one-fourth of the employee’s biweekly basic work requirement.
Charging Credit Hours. Credit hours will normally be earned and used in increments consistent with bureau or Office policy for charging leave unless the organization's AWS plan provides otherwise. Credit hours must be recorded on the employee's T&A when earned and used. An employee may notify a supervisor of his or her wish to use credit hours and obtain supervisory approval by submitting an SF-71, Application for Leave, and marking it "credit hours" under "Other".
Paying and Liquidating Credit Hours. The payment or liquidation of credit hours is applicable when an employee separates from the Department, loses entitlement to earn credit hours, or moves from a full to part-time covered position that permits the earning/use of credit hours. In the later case, the credit hours in excess of the new maximum biweekly carryover must be used or liquidated via payment. Employees shall be paid not more than their current basic rate of pay for their unused credit hours. Administrative error permitting the carryover of more than 24 credit hours is not a basis for liquidating the balance over 24; they are forfeited.
Transferring Credit Hours. Heads of operating units with flexible work schedules in place that allow for credit hours, have the discretion to accept accrued credit hours of employees who move between operating units of the Department. In accepting transferred accrued credit hours, gaining agencies and operating units should be aware that they are agreeing to accept the financial liability for potential credit hour liquidation (paid at the employee’s current basic rate basic pay). Agencies and operating units may limit this liability by establishing a ceiling on the number of credit hours, below the allowable maximum carryover, that will be accepted for transfer.
Credit Hours and Training. Credit hours may not be earned if training or homework (for training) is required by an agency since required training does not constitute hours that an employee elects to work with supervisory approval. (See 5 U.S.C. 6121(4).)
Premium Pay and Excused Absence
For employees on flexible schedules:
- Overtime is all hours of work in excess of 8 in day or 40 in a week which are officially ordered or authorized in advance of the time they are worked;
- By law, a maximum of 8 hours of excused absence may be credited towards the basic work requirement on a holiday (see 5 U.S.C. 6124). If the number of regularly scheduled hours for that day are greater than 8, the difference must be made up by a charge to accrued annual leave, accumulated credit hours or compensatory time, LWOP, or by working extra time prior to the holiday or in the same pay period as the holiday;
- By law, Sunday pay is limited to 8 nonovertime hours for each tour that begins on Sunday (see the definition of Sunday work in 5 CFR 550.103); and
- Night differential is payable for work performed between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6.a.m.; however, if the employee's tour of duty includes 8 or more hours of daylight, the employee is not entitled to night pay even though he or she elects to vary arrival or departure time during hours for which night pay is usually paid. If core hours are during daylight hours but the tour of duty includes less than 8 daytime hours, the employee is entitled to night pay for the difference between 8 hours and the available number of daytime hours in the tour. If core hours include night work, the employee is entitled to night pay for any nonovertime work performed at night. A part-time employee is entitled to night pay only for nightwork performed during his or her basic work requirement.
For employees on compressed schedules earn:
- Overtime hours are all hours of work which are officially ordered in advance and which are in excess of the specified hours that constitute the compressed work schedule;
- Holiday pay is payable for all non-overtime hours of a holiday worked (see 5 U.S.C. 6128(c) and (d));
- Sunday pay is payable for all scheduled nonovertime hours of a tour that begins or ends on Sunday (see 5 U.S.C. 6128(c) and (d)); and
- Night pay is payable for all regularly scheduled hours between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Excused Absence. The amount of excused absence to be granted to an employee on a flexible schedule will be based on the nonovertime hours of the employee's typical schedule for that day. Since an employee on a compressed schedule works a fixed schedule, the amount of excused absence granted will equal the fixed hours of the employee's schedule.
AWS and Travel or Training
At the discretion of supervisory officials, an employee on an AWS may be temporarily changed to a basic work schedule (i.e., 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday) in the event that official travel and/or training is scheduled for one or more days during a pay period. A one pay period advance notice of the variation in work schedule is not required under this situation.
AWS and Senior Executive Service (SES) Employees
The law does not prohibit SES employees from working an AWS schedule; however, by law, they may not earn credit hours under an alternative work schedule.
Timekeeping in the AWS Environment
The law requires that there be an affirmative means of ensuring that AWS employees meet their hours of work requirement. This requirement can be met by use of the CD-465, Alternative Work Schedule Attendance Log, which requires employees to record their arrival and departure times following one another. "Seriatim," as this is called, assures relative accuracy in the times recorded. Also, time and attendance worksheets can be used for the recording of daily arrival and departure times; hours worked, including premium pay and credit hours; and leave taken as well as other absences such as jury duty, military leave, etc. No time accounting device is needed if a supervisor is visually aware (because he or she works the same schedule as his or her employees) or uses such techniques as making arrangements with other supervisory personnel to provide observation, occasional telephone calls to the employee during times the supervisor is not present but the employee is scheduled to be, or determining reasonableness of work output for time spent.
Determining In Lieu of Holidays when Holidays Fall on Nonworkdays
If a holiday falls on a nonworkday of an employee on a flexible or compressed work schedule (except for holidays falling on a Sunday nonworkday) the employee’s preceding workday is the designated in lieu of holiday. (See 5 U.S.C. 6103(b).) If a holiday falls on a Sunday nonworkday of an employee on a flexible or compressed work schedule, the employee’s subsequent workday is the designated in lieu of holiday. (See section 3 of Executive Order 11582 of February 11, 1971.)
The head of an agency may prescribe a different in lieu of holiday for full-time employees on a compressed work schedule when it is deemed that a different in lieu of holiday is necessary to prevent an "adverse agency impact." (See 5 U.S.C. 6103(d).)
Part-time employees are not entitled to an in lieu of holiday when a holiday falls on a nonworkday of the employee. (See 5 CFR 610.405.) Also see Section 12, State and Local Holidays.
Updated October 2000.