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What are compressed hours, and how do they work?

Used correctly, compressed working hours can be a great tool for keeping people in the business when they otherwise might look for a change. But what are compressed hours, and how do they work?

In this article, we’re going to examine compressed working hours – explaining exactly what compressed hours are, how they work and the benefits and disadvantages of using them, both for the employer and employee.

What are compressed hours?

Compressed working hours is a type of flexible working arrangement, that allows employees to compress their regular normal working week into fewer days. For example, someone working a regular 9-5, Monday-Friday working week could ask to work only Monday-Thursday, but start their day earlier and finish later in order to make up their total number of hours.

There is no single way of using compressed hours – compressing five working days into four is only one example of how it can work. An employee can request to rearrange their hours in all kinds of ways. An employee could stay an hour later every day, for example, in order to leave after lunch on Wednesdays.

"My employee has asked to use compressed hours… what do I do now?"

Compressed working hours are just one type of what is called flexible working practices (you can read our full guide to the many types of flexible working by clicking the link). As of 2014, the right to request flexible working practices become protected under UK employment law.

Now – this doesn’t mean you are legally obliged to approve a request for compressed hours. But you are obliged to follow certain steps to ensure that you give the request fair consideration. Click here to read our full guide to flexible working requests, and the steps you need to take as an employer.  

Why are compressed hours useful?

From an employees point of view, compressed hours represent a great solution for people who want to combine their day job with another project – that could mean higher education, for example, or their own ‘side-project’ business idea.

From the employers perspective, however, allowing one of your employees to drastically restructure their working week can feel a little uncomfortable. You might feel apprehensive – will the quality of their work remain as high while working extra hours every day? Will it be disruptive to lose them from the office completely on certain days each week?

These are all valid concerns, and concerns you should certainly weigh up when considering their request. But simply dismissing that request out of hand is a mistake – handled correctly, compressed hours can be a great way of keeping people in the business who might otherwise leave completely.

If you receive a request for compressed working hours, then it’s worth talking to that person making the request to learn more about what they’re trying to achieve. If it’s something you think can be done without overly affecting the business, then give their request some thought.

Calculating bank holiday entitlement for an employee working compressed hours

When an employee works compressed hours, then their annual leave is calculated in hours rather than days.

When one of their usual working days falls on a bank holiday, their usual number of hours for that day will be deducted from their annual leave entitlement.


CharlieHR builds software to help small businesses thrive. From tracking time off, running performance reviews or keeping tabs on employee engagement, Charlie provides everything you need to manage your people – all in one place.

You can try it free today by clicking here.

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