21 Aug 2023

Flexitime: How does it work?

Flexitime offers up the promise of a more balanced work-life equation, allowing employees to choose when they clock in and out. But is it the perfect solution for everyone? Discover the intricacies of flexitime, its implementation in the UK Civil Service, and the challenges it may bring.


What is flexitime?

Flexitime is a flexible working hours arrangement that allows employees to choose their start and finish times, usually within set core hours, to suit personal requirements or commitments. This innovative approach to working hours is becoming increasingly popular as more employers recognise its potential benefits for employee morale, productivity, and overall work-life balance.

How does flexitime work?

Flexitime operates on the basis of core hours and flexible hours. During core hours, employees are required to be present at work. These hours are usually set by the employer and are typically during the middle of the day when most meetings, collaborative work, and interactions occur. Outside of core hours, employees have the flexibility to choose when to work, as long as they fulfil their contracted hours for the day or week.

For example, an employer may set core hours from 10AM to 3PM. During these hours, all employees must be present at work. However, an employee can choose to start their workday at 8 a.m. and finish at 4PM or start at 11AM and finish at 7PM, as long as they meet their contracted hours.

Flexitime and the Civil Service

The UK Civil Service has recognised the potential benefits of flexitime and has implemented flexible working arrangements for its employees. These arrangements include options to work additional hours and bank them as time off, though this is not available to all grades of civil servants. Most employees, however, have access to other types of flexible working hours.

The Civil Service has also shown support for flexible working by adopting the “Happy to Talk Flexible Working” badge from the organisation Working Families. Furthermore, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) established a task force in 2018 to promote flexible working within the civil service.

For civil servants, core hours tend to fall within the window of 7AM to 7PM , providing a broad timeframe for employees to choose their working hours.

Despite its availability, flexitime is used least in the fast stream, or at the most senior levels of the civil service. This may be due to the nature of these roles, or indeed, potential stigma associated with flexible working.

Complications of flexitime

Flexitime is not without its challenges, here are some of the complications associated with flexitime

Flexitime is perceived as reserved for certain groups

Flexitime is often seen as a benefit primarily for women or parents, which can inadvertently restrict access for other employees who may also benefit from it.

Potential barrier to career advancement

There may be a perception that employees who use flexitime are less committed to their jobs, by being less visible perhaps than those working a standard 9-5 pattern, potentially affecting their chances for promotion.

Risk of working overtime

Employees using flexitime may find themselves working longer hours to catch up on tasks, especially if their entire team is not on the same schedule. This can lead to potential burnout and decreased productivity. A 2019 survey of civil servants found that over 35% of women felt that they should be working more than their contracted hours. This suggests a pressure to conform to traditional working hours, despite the availability of flexitime.

In conclusion, flexitime can provide numerous benefits for both employees and employers. However, it is essential to address the complications and challenges associated with it. By fostering a culture that embraces flexibility, organisations can create a more productive and satisfied workforce.


What is flexitime?

Flexitime is a work arrangement allowing flexible start and finish times within core hours to improve work-life balance.

How does flexitime work?

Flexitime is a work arrangement allowing flexible start and finish times within core hours to improve work-life balance.

Does the UK civil service use flexitime?

Yes, the UK Civil Service offers flexitime, including options to bank extra hours for time off, with core hours typically between 7AM to 7PM.

Who benefits from flexitime?

Flexitime especially benefits working parents, caregivers, individuals with personal commitments, and those seeking a healthier work-life balance.

What are the negatives of flexitime?

Flexitime can lead to perceptions of reduced commitment, uneven workload distribution, potential career progression barriers, and the risk of longer working hours due to misaligned schedules.