Flexitime- Definition with examples

Flexitime is a scheme whereby workers can vary the start and finish time of their working day as long as they complete an agreed number of hours per week. Most systems consist of a fixed core time when all workers are present, with flexibility to vary the beginning and end of their day outside of the core.

alarm clock
Image from insung yoon on Unsplash

How it works

The object of flexitime is to provide employees with some flexibility in their working hours – within defined limits. Usually, the defined limits are the earliest and latest times at which employees can arrive and leave, together with the period during which they can take their lunch break.

A flexitime policy may also specify other conditions. A common condition is that usage is “subject to workloads and needs of the service.”

Different parts of an organization may implement different policies on flexitime. Often, this is due to differences in business needs. For instance, staff that spend most of their working hours dealing with clients may have narrower limits than staff who do not deal with clients.

A typical flexitime policy may also state that there must always be enough staff available outside of core hours to cover the needs of the operation.

Flexitime can form part of a flexible working scheme, which may also include other elements, such as job sharing and working from home.

A typical pattern

Most schemes comprise a core period during which all staff must be present, with a flexible arrival and leaving period before and after. The following shows a typical arrangement for a 37.5-hour working week:

Start: Anytime between 07:00 h to 10:00 h.
Lunch break: 45 minutes during 12:00 h to 14:00 h.
Finish: Any time between 15:30 h to 19:00 h.

In this example, the core time is from 10.00 h to 15.30 h. It includes a 2-hour period during which staff must take their lunch break.

The technology

Most systems comprise a computer linked to terminals. The terminals are where workers log on and off the system. Some schemes may use the terms “clocking in” and “out” instead of logging on and off.

The computer keeps records of when workers clock in and out. It works out how many hours each person works and keeps the total in their flexitime account.

Most schemes allow staff to be in debit or credit. Typically, the amount of debit or credit is around 8 hours. This gives staff the opportunity to accumulate credit and use it to take time off.

The amount of time off that a worker can save up or owe could be 1 or 2 days, depending on the policy of the scheme.


Hanif works in the accounting department of a large software company. He likes to start his day early and leave early so that he can collect his young daughter from school. So, his typical working day looks like this:

Start: 07:30 h
Lunch: 12:00 h to 12:45 h
Finish 15:45 h
Total: 7.5 h

On days when his daughter is not at school – as during school holidays – Hanif’s work pattern can vary from his typical day. He and his partner aim to be at home as much as possible, so Hanif starts earlier and leaves earlier, while his partner, who also has flexitime, arrives later and leaves later.

A bit of history

The terms “clock in” (or “on”) and “clock out” (or “off”) date from when factory workers stamped an attendance card on a time recording machine that displayed a large clock. Historians attribute the invention of the machine to New York jeweller Willard Legrand Bundy, who patented the machine in 1888.