Compressed hours: how do they work?

What are compressed hours and how do they work?

Middle aged man in a tie standing by a window


Compressed hours means that you work your total contracted hours over fewer working days, for instance, you could do a full-time job in four longer days rather than five or you could do a nine-day fortnight, working slightly longer days over that period than you would if you were full time.

To request compressed hours, you need to put in a flexible working request. Compressed hours are not for everyone. The benefits include having extra time off, for instance, for caring responsibilities or other activities and not having to commute as much. Drawbacks include greater work intensity and potential fatigue.

Although flexible working is likely to change next year, the current eligibility rules are that you must:

  • Be an employee with 26 weeks continuous service on the date the application is made.
  • Not have made another application to work flexibly under this right during the past 12 months.

Making the Application…

The application from the individual must be made to the employer in writing by email or letter. The application must include:

  • the date
  • a statement that this is a statutory request
  • details of how the employee wants to work flexibly and when they want to start
  • an explanation of how they think flexible working might affect the business and how this could be dealt with, eg if they’re not at work on certain days
  • a statement saying if and when they’ve made a previous application

The Process

The basic steps are:

  • The employee writes to the employer.
  • The employer considers the request and makes a decision within 3 months – or longer if agreed with the employee. Employers must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’.Examples of handling requests in a reasonable manner include: assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application; holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee; and offering an appeal process.
  • If the employer agrees to the request, they must change the terms and conditions in the employee’s contract. This should be done as soon as possible, but no later than 28 days after the request was approved.
  • If the employer disagrees, they must write to the employee giving the business reasons for the refusal. The employee may be able to complain to an employment tribunal.

There are eight reasons that employers can use to turn down a request:

1. The burden of additional costs
2. An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
3. An inability to recruit additional staff
4. A detrimental impact on quality
5. A detrimental impact on performance
6. Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
7. Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
8. Planned structural changes to the business.

How is annual leave calculated if you work compressed hours?

When someone’s flexible working pattern is compressed hours then annual leave will be calculated in hours rather than days.

When one of the usual working days of an employee working compressed hours falls on a bank holiday or closure day, their usual number of hours for that day will be deducted from their leave entitlement.

This is because the hours worked on the compressed days are longer to make up the full-time hours – eg when it is a bank holiday someone who works normal office hours gets eight hours off, but someone who works compressed hours will need, say, 10 hours off.

*The Government has an online calculator where you can calculate your leave entitlement in hours based on the minimum holiday entitlement.

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