Flexible working A - Z


02 / 11 / 2010 2.49pm

Annualised hours

This is a system whereby the hours which an employee is contracted to work are calculated over a whole year. Usually the annual hours are split into two parts. The larger part consists of set shifts with the remaining shifts unallocated. Usually the employee is paid for unallocated shifts and owes time to the employer. The employer keeps these hours in reserve and can call on the employee to work at short notice as demand dictates.

Career breaks or sabbaticals

An arrangement which enables employees to work reduced hours for a specified period of time to deal with "special circumstances", some employers also offer unpaid breaks to their employees with a guarantee that they will be able to return to work at the end of the agreed period.  This can be used to cover childcare or carer responsibilities, to take up full time education, travel or do voluntary work for example.

Compressed hours

Allows employees to work their total number of agreed hours over fewer working days. Often, a five-day working week is compressed into four days.


Allows employees to choose, within agreed limits, when to begin and end work, and may be planned to enable individuals to attend to domestic or other responsibilities. Employees may be required to work during some essential periods (known as core times) and must work an agreed number of hours within an 'accounting period' which is typically four weeks. Outside core times are flexible bands when employees may choose whether to be at work or not. This enables employees to vary their start, finish and lunch times. Usually, within agreed limits, employees can carry over any excess or deficit in the number of hours they are required to work to the next accounting period.

Flexible retirement and “keep in touch” schemes 

A large proportion of healthcare staff are over 50 years old and are approaching retirement.  Many experience good health and have a lot to offer the NHS by way of experience and maturity. This is why we are actively questioning the notion of the perceived retirement ages and encouraging staff and managers alike to consider alternatives to retirement. These include reducing workloads, reducing hours, moving into part time work in a way that doesn’t reduce pension benefits, and joining winter registers so they can return to the NHS at times of crisis.


This is where an employee meets their contractual obligations by working remotely at home, on an occasional, temporary or permanent basis.

To read more detailed information see our home working page.

Job sharing

Involves two people carrying out the work that would normally be done by one person. The work is not split but shared. There is no set model for managing time, which may involve working a set number of hours each day, each week or alternate weeks.

Part-time working 

There is no set pattern to part-time working. It may involve a later start and earlier finish time than a full-time position, working mornings or afternoons only, fewer working days in the week or any other arrangement of working time whereby the employee is contracted to work less than normal basic full-time hours.

To read more detailed information see our part time working page.

Phased return to work

Used after a period of extended leave such as maternity leave, career break or after serious or prolonged illness.  Normal hours of working are reduced initially on a temporary basis (usually for a period of up to 6 months) before returning to normal hours of work.

Remote (Home) working

This is where an employees meets their contractual obligations by working remotely/at home, on an occasional, temporary or permanent basis.

Shift working

This is the pattern of work in which one employee replaces another on the same job within a 24 hour period. Shift workers normally work in crews, which operate as separate shift teams. Shift systems typically operate over morning, afternoon and night shift periods and may provide continuous cover 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Two variations of this are:

Shift swapping - enables employees to negotiate their working times by re-arranging shifts among themselves with the proviso that the required shifts are covered.
Self-rostering - allows employees to nominate the shifts they would like to work, leaving employers to compile shift patterns that match the preferences of individual staff to agreed staffing levels.

Staggered hours

Allows normal working hours to be varied to suit an individual's needs whilst working full contracted hours.  Working may be staggered on a permanent or temporary basis throughout the week; or just on one or two days of the week.  Can be a very effective way of covering longer opening hours i.e. allowing members of staff to have different start/lunch/and finishing times.

Term-time working

Enables an employee to remain on a permanent contract but also to take paid or unpaid leave during school holidays.

Time off in lieu of banked hours

This allows employees to take time off to compensate for extra hours worked.

V-time working

This is a voluntary arrangement whereby an employee reduces the number of hours worked for an agreed period with a guarantee that full-time employment will be available again at the end of this time.

Further guidance

Specific guidance, advice and policy for employers and employees about options, rights to apply and considerations for the implementation of flexible working practices can be found on the following websites:

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