Flexible working hours

Flexible working hours allows a flexible response to fluctuations in workload and avoids unnecessary overtime.

In work other than period-based work, regular working hours may be agreed to be defined as flexible working hours. Flexible working hours is an arrangement where employees may, within set limits, determine when to arrive at work and when to leave. The daily rest period may also be agreed to be included in the flexible working hours.

Flexible working hours limits

Applying flexible working hours requires that the employer and employee have agreed to do so. It is recommended that such an agreement be executed in writing. Once such an agreement has been written up, it may be regarded as a shift roster.

When agreeing on flexible working hours, the parties must agree not only on regular working hours but also:

  • fixed working hours
  • the limits of flexibility within 24 hours
  • the timing of rest periods and their placement in the day, and
  • the maximum accumulation of hours over or under the regular working hours.

What does agreeing on fixed working hours mean?

Fixed working hours determine the latest time when employees may arrive and the earliest time when they may leave. The employer is not allowed to require any employee to perform work outside the agreed fixed working hours. The fixed working hours may be no more than the regular working hours minus the agreed flexible period.

A feasible solution is to set the fixed working hours to that part of the regular working hours that is considered necessary for the appropriate performance of the work. This may involve staff meetings or manning a customer service.

What is the flexible period?

Under the Working Hours Act, the daily flexible period may be no more than three hours. The flexible period may be otherwise agreed upon only in collective agreements.

For instance, if an employee’s regular working hours have been agreed as eight hours and the flexible period as three hours, the employee’s maximum regular working hours in one day comes to 11 hours. The flexible period may be placed at the beginning and/or end of the fixed working hours. The employee can shorten or lengthen his/her regular working hours each day using the agreed flexible periods.

What is the flexible hours accumulation?

Employees accrue a flexible hours accumulation depending on whether they work more or less than the regular working hours. This accumulation may not exceed plus or minus 40 hours. A derogation to the 40-hour maximum may be agreed upon only in collective agreements.

Once an employee’s flexible hours accumulation has reached its maximum on the plus side, the employee may not work longer hours than the regular working hours until the accumulation decreases. The employer and employee may agree that the employee may take hours or days off in lieu of the extra hours accumulated through the flexible working hours. 

In order for an employee to be able to regulate his/her working hours and the accumulation, it must be made relatively easy for employees to read their current accumulation. In practice, implementing flexible working hours requires an electronic working hours monitoring system.

What is the adjustment period for the flexible hours accumulation?

An adjustment period for the flexible hours accumulation may be agreed upon, but it is not mandatory. The purpose of an adjustment period is that employees must adjust their accumulation to zero by the end of each adjustment period, when the accumulations are reset and the working hours counters start again.