Compressed Work Schedule

An arrangement in which an employee works full-time hours, e.g. 40 hours in a week, in fewer than the normal number of days per time period. There are various types of schedules used for compressed work schedule. Some examples are provided below.

When designing schedules for a compressed work schedule, it is important to note that there are statutory guidelines governing the hours worked and periods of rest required for employees covered under the Employment Act. Please refer to the Ministry of Manpower's website for specific details.

  • 4/40 Schedule
  • This is one of the most common schedules adopted by employers for employees or workmen not covered under Part IV of the Employment Act on a 40-day workweek. Employees work four 10-hour days and have the 5th day off. To ensure better coverage of responsibilities, some organisations may request that employees take two half days off instead of an entire day. This is illustrated in examples A & B below.

    Under normal circumstances, employees or workmen covered under Part IV of the Employment Act may not work more than 9 hours per day. Employers could consider a 4.5-day workweek instead in which the employee works four 9-hour days and 4 hours on the 5th day, as illustrated in example C below.

     

  • 9/80 Schedule
  • In this schedule, employees or workmen who are not covered under Part IV of the Employment Act, work a permutation of 80 hours in nine days. In most cases, employees work eight 9-hour and one 8-hour day. They then have the 10th day off.

     

  • 12-hour Shift Schedule under a 3-week cycle
  • A 12-hour shift schedule on a 3-week cycle is often adopted by organisations that require employees to work on weekends. For employees covered under the Employment Act, they must agree to the terms before they may work a 12-hour shift e.g. during the hiring phase. Under this 3-week cycle, the employee would work 48 hours on Week 1, 36 hours on Week 2 and 48 hours on Week 3. This works out to an average of 44 hours per week. 

    Organisations introducing a 12-hour shift for the first time for employees covered under the Employment Act must clearly explain to them on how the schedule is to be applied. Employees must agree to the terms before they are placed on the 12-hour shift schedule.

     

  • 5-4/9 Schedule
  • In this schedule, employees work a week of five 9-hour days followed by a week of four 9-hour days. This allows employees a day off every other week.

     

The first step to implementing a compressed work schedule is to review the 4-step model to ensure an effective and sustainable programme. 

  • For employees

A self-assessment may be useful for an employee to consider the various aspects involved in ensuring a successful compressed work schedule arrangement. A sample self-assessment form may be found here.

  • For employers
4/40 Schedule

A 4/40 schedule is mostly appropriate for office-based jobs that do not usually require many hours of overtime work. A 10-hour day should allow employees to complete more work and employers to avoid overtime payments.

9/80 Schedule

Some employers may not find a 4/40 schedule ideal as there is less continuation in job responsibilities when an employee has one day off every week. Organisations that wish to retain these skilled employees in full-time positions may choose to adopt a 9/80 schedule instead, when the 10th day off falls on an off-peak day.

3/12 Schedule

In certain industries, there are fixed peak days in the week, e.g. weekends. As most full-time employees work a five-day workweek, employers would have to pay them overtime to meet the peak periods which fall outside regular working hours, or hire more part-time employees to cover these periods. Therefore, it would be wise to consider potential employees who would be willing to work longer hours in the day in exchange for fewer work days.

Employers may also consider a 3/13 workday schedule for office-based staff. However, under the Employment Act, a 13-hour workday is not allowed for:

  • Workmen
  • Employees with salary not exceeding S$1,600

A compressed work schedule may not be feasible when:

  • Work requires serving customers during set hours
  • Work has daily deadlines
  • All employees need to be present at job site at all times

Click here for a Sample Checklist on issues to consider before implementing a Compressed Work Schedule.

If the barriers to compressed work schedule cannot be resolved, the organisation/employee may consider other types of flexible work arrangements.

Communication

Regular communication is essential to ensure the working dynamics between employees on the compressed work schedule arrangement and their co-workers is positive. Therefore, department meetings should be scheduled on days where the employee on a compressed work schedule can be present. In addition, the employee and supervisor should discuss how often they will meet to monitor the compressed work schedule arrangement.

Cost effectiveness

Although the organisation cannot be fully sure of the nominal costs and benefits of a compressed work schedule arrangement until a pilot study has been conducted, it is still useful to conduct a projected cost-benefit analysis to see if the programme is cost effective for the organisations.

Pilot study/Trial period

Organisations are encouraged to have a pilot study or a trial period before embarking on the compressed work schedule arrangement. This is especially important if it plans to design a strategy which involves a significant number of employees.

Organisations should consider the number of employees to be involved in the pilot study. At this stage, employees selected are often those with experience. The duration of the trial period also needs to be determined.

Compressed Work Schedule Agreement

Before implementation, the management should meet with the HR team to draft guidelines for employees on compressed work schedule and their immediate supervisors. Management should consider the organisation's peak days, which is often done by referring to sales analysis.

Employers are encouraged to allow employees to select their day(s) off as long as it does not fall on peak day(s), if there are any. Feedback should also be sought and concerns expressed by employees should be addressed in the guidelines.

Organisations can consider awarding employees (on a 40-hour workweek) an additional 4 hours for a 3/12 schedule as an incentive if employees work on weekends. This helps employers reduce weekend overtime payments.

Since employees will not work a full 5-day workweek, the management has to decide on the calculation of their pay if they are required to work on an off-day. Organisations may offer additional leave schemes instead of overtime payments in such cases.

Once all the factors are considered, an agreement between the employee and the organisation which clearly outlines the work schedule, equipment used and any other relevant details of the compressed work schedule arrangement between the parties involved should be drafted. This helps to create a mutual understanding of the job roles and manage expectations.

A list of factors to include in a Compressed Work Schedule Agreement is provided here for reference.

The next step after implementation would be to evaluate the entire programme. Two key issues to consider throughout this process are:

  • whether the identified business aims/goals are satisfied, and
  • whether the employee needs are met​

A compressed work schedule arrangement should be supported if there are no adverse effects to the way the organisation functions. Performance feedback should be sought from immediate supervisors of employees on compressed work schedules and co-workers, where appropriate, in assessing performance and productivity.

To assess the programme’s cost effectiveness, another cost-benefit analysis may be conducted. Organisations typically find that the cost of paying overtime reduces. In the long run, the potential monetary and qualitative benefits often outweigh any initial costs incurred.