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Flextime (or flexitime, flexi-time, originally derived from the German word Gleitzeit which literally means 'sliding time') is a variable work schedule, in contrast to traditional work arrangements requiring employees to work a standard 9am to 5pm day. Its invention is usually credited to William Henning. Under flextime, there is typically a core period (of approximately 50% of total working time/working day) of the day when employees are expected to be at work (for example, between 11 am and 3pm), while the rest of the working day is "flexitime", in which employees can choose when they work, subject to achieving total daily, weekly or monthly hours in the region of what the employer expects, and subject to the necessary work being done.

A flextime policy allows staff to determine when they will work, while a flexplace policy allows staff to determine where they will work. Its practical realization can mainly be attributed to the entrepreneur Wilhelm Haller who founded Hengstler Gleitzeit - and later 'Interflex Datensysteme GmbH' in Southern Germany where today a number of companies offer Flexitime (Gleitzeit) solutions which have grown out of his initiative.

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Flextime (or flexitime) in the United Kingdom

Haller's employers Hengstler founded a company in the U.K. in 1971 and registered the trademark "Flextime", the mark remains the property of that companys successor hfx Ltd. In spring 2003, 17.7% of men and 26.7% of women were employed with flexitime arrangements in the United Kingdom, (Office for National Statistics 2003)[1]. In the United Kingdom, flexitime working is commonplace in both the private and public sectors. The practice is often found in administrative and back office functions of commercial organisations and local councils.

In 2003 the UK Government introduced legislation [1] that gave parents of children under 6, or the parents of disabled children under 18, the right in law to request a flexible working arrangement from their employer. A survey in 2005 by the National Office of Statistics [2] showed that 71% of female workers and 60% of male workers were aware of the rights created under the 2003 legislation. Between 2003 and 2005 more than 14% of all workers had requested a change to flexible working. From 6 April 2007 the law will extend the right to request flexible working to carers of adults.

Shift workers are generally excluded from flexitime schemes as are senior managers. Other groups of workers for whom flexitime arrangements are rare include those who serve the public during specific opening times.

For employers, flexitime can aid the recruitment and retention of staff. It has been a particularly popular option in 2009 for employers trying to reduce staff costs without having to make redundancies during the recession.[2] It can also help provide staff cover outside normal working hours and reduce the need for overtime. Additionally flexitime can also improve the provision of equal opportunities to staff unable to work standard hours.

Flexitime can give employees greater freedom to organise their working lives to suit personal needs. In addition, travelling can be cheaper and easier if it is out of peak time.

Flextime in the United States

In the United States, flextime workers, like salaried workers exempted from overtime regulations, are given broad leeway in setting their own work schedule. Unlike exempted salaried workers, employers are still required to pay overtime to a flextime worker if they work more than 40 hours per week; some employers dodge this policy by dismissing their employees shortly before their scheduled working hours have been completed. In addition, the employer will usually require that a flextime employee works a minimum number of hours each week.

In recent years, the term "flextime" has acquired a more controversial definition when used to describe proposals to overhaul the nation's overtime regulations. Under one such proposal by the Bush administration made public on August 5, 2004, employers would not be required to pay non-exempt employees overtime for working more than 40 hours in a week so long as the employee works no more than 80 hours over a two week period. For example, a worker could be required to work 70 hours one week and receive no overtime compensation as long as they work 10 hours or less the following week. Such arrangements are opposed by labor organizations such as the AFL-CIO.

In certain industries and disciplines, such as information technology, flextime permits workers to vary their schedule. For example, they may opt to work four 10-hour days per week, taking Monday or Friday off. Another flextime schedule is to work nine-hour days Monday through Thursday, an eight-hour day on Friday, taking every other Friday off. Workers may arrange to coordinate their days off so that their responsibilities are adequately covered.

Other workers may opt simply to come in early, such as 5 or 6 am (0500 to 0600), and leave in the mid-afternoon, or come in late and therefore leave late. One benefit of such a schedule is that commuting times occur outside of the congested rush hour traffic within a given geographic region. Flextime arrangements also help parents: one parent works 10am-6pm and is in charge of the children before school/daycare, while the other parent works 7am-3pm and is in charge of the children after school/daycare. This allows parents time to commute [3]. Flextime is also beneficial to workers pursuing an education.

In the U.S., flextime generally applies only to white collar workers. It is an ongoing part of the work-life balance discussions going on in many companies.

Flextime in Australia

Flextime in Australia is usually referred to accumulated overtime hours that an employee can build up and exchange for the equivalent amount of time off. (Example: Jane works 7am - 3pm Monday to Friday. Over the past month, Jane has worked 8 hours overtime meaning she is eligible for a paid day off.) It is implemented formally in the Australian Federal Public Service and is available for staff in most state and territory government departments. With current changes to industrial relations laws (2006), from State to Federal level there are no new published guidelines (online) for flextime.

Flextime has also been implemented in the Victorian Public Service.[3]

Recording flexitime working

There are many different methods used for recording working time ranging from sophisticated software (computer programmes) to handwritten time sheets. Most of these methods are associated with the payment of wages in return for hours worked. As a result they often do not address a fundamental difference of most flexible working systems - namely the intention of flexible working to allow an employee to "trade hours" with their employer in return for a fixed wage (Hayward, Bruce; Fong, Barry; Thornton, Alex (December, 2007), "The Third Work-Life Balance Employer Survey: Main Findings" (PDF), UK Govt. Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file38388.pdf  ).

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