Flexible working: the options available

What are the alternatives to the standard 9-5?

If one of your employees has requested the right to work more flexibly, there are plenty of options available. You might also find that some of the following options allow you to operate more cost-effectively and to get more from your workforce.

Annualised hours describes working time organised on the basis of the number of hours to be worked over a year rather than a week; it is usually used to fit in with peaks and troughs of work. Pay will depend on the hours worked each pay period.

Compressed hours allows individuals to work their total number of agreed hours over a shorter period. For example, employees might work their full weekly hours over four rather than five days.They would be paid for a fulltime job but would not receive overtime payments for the agreed extra hours they work in any one day.

Flexitime gives employees choice about their actual working hours, usually outside certain agreed core times. Individuals are paid for the hours that they work.

Homeworking doesn’t have to be on a full-time basis and it may suit an employee to divide their time between home and office. What individuals are paid for depends on the hours they work. Employers are required to carry out a risk assessment of the activities undertaken by homeworkers, identifying any hazards and deciding whether enough steps have been taken to prevent harm to them or anyone else who may be affected by their work. Further details are available from the Health and Safety Executive (

Job-sharing typically involves two people employed on a part-time basis, but working together to cover a full-time post. Both receive pay for the hours they work.

Shift working gives employers the scope to have their business open for longer periods than an eight-hour day. Agreed flexible working arrangements may mean that a shift premium is not needed.

Staggered hours allows employees to start and finish their day at different times. This is often useful in the retail sector, for example, where it is important to have a greater number of staff over the lunch period but less at the start and end of each day. Pay will depend on hours worked in total rather than the time at which they are worked.

Term-time working allows employees to take unpaid leave of absence during the school holidays.

Definitions provided by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform’s ‘Flexible working: The right to request and the duty to consider Flexible working: a guide for employees and employers’.


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