The Alternative Workweek Ins & Outs

by Kathryn Carlson on August 15, 2017

Flexibility. It’s all the rage and no wonder! Compressing a week’s worth of work hours into fewer days makes it possible for employees to care for aging parents, spend time with family, recreate, travel and more. Plus, employers don’t have to pay overtime for such arrangements.

Under California Labor Code 511 (as amended in 2009), alternative workweek schedules are permitted under many Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) wage orders. An alternative workweek schedule refers to any regularly scheduled workweek in which employees work 8+ hours in a 24-hour period.

Common Alternative Workweek Configurations

  • 4-10s = employees work four 10-hour days and receive an extra day off each week.
  • 9-80 = employees work four 9-hour days and one 8-hour day (typically Friday) and have every other Friday off.
  • 3-12s = permissible in the healthcare industry, employees may work three 12-hour days.

Implementing Alternative Workweeks

In California, initiating an alternative workweek is slightly more complicated than an employer and employee agreeing to it and running with it.

  1. Review the alternative workweek provisions of the IWC wage order that applies to your organization.
  2. Determine which departments, shifts, facilities or job classifications where an alternative work week makes sense.
  3. Keep in mind that an alternative workweek schedule may not require 10+ hours of work per day or 40+ hours of work in a workweek.
  4. Specify the standard alternative workweek or whether you will offer a menu of work schedules to choose from. Note that a regular schedule of 8-hour days, 5 days a week can also be one option.
  5. Inform affected employees in writing about the proposed regularly scheduled alternative workweek or menu of options. State how your organization defines the number of regular recurring workdays and work hours. However, you don’t have to specify the actual workdays.
  6. Before implementing the alternative workweek schedule, employees must be allowed to vote for the measure through secret ballot.
  7. If 2/3 of affected employees voted in favor of activating an alternative work week, you can activate it after a 30-day waiting period. You must also report the employee election results to the Office of Policy, Research, and Legislation of the California Department of Industrial Relations within 30 days.
  8. If you require an employee to work less hours than they would normally be scheduled under an alternative workweek, you must pay overtime after 8 hours in a workday.
  9. You must reasonably accommodate an employee whose religious beliefs conflict with an alternative workweek schedule.
  10. You must also create a work schedule spanning up to 8 hours per workday to accommodate employees unable to work the alternative workweek schedule.
  11. You are permitted, but not required, to provide a work schedule of up to 8 hours per workday to accommodate someone hired after the employee election who can’t work the alternative workweek schedule.
  12. To repeal an alternative workweek ruling, you would typically go through the same steps identified above. If 2/3 of employees reverse the alternative workweek arrangement, you’d have 60 days to comply. Employers can also eliminate alternative workweek arrangements on their own so long as they provide reasonable prior notice to employees before ending the alternative workweek. Repeals/reversals can’t happen until at least 12 months after the original employee vote.
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Kathryn CarlsonThe Alternative Workweek Ins & Outs