General Questions

Why flexible work options?

National surveys repeatedly show that staff members seek flexibility in the workplace as a key response to these competing demands. A recent study found that the number one work factor correlating with employee commitment and loyalty was recognition by the institution of the importance of personal and family life and support for these responsibilities.

There are also significant organizational benefits to be derived from these arrangements. Flexible work options can improve staff morale, increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and turnover, enhance customer satisfaction and improve competitiveness for job candidates.

How long should a flexible working arrangement be in place after the agreement is reached?

All arrangements should be piloted before a regular agreement is implemented. The supervisor and staff member must include regular reviews of the arrangement to decide what is working and what needs to be improved or enhanced. Each agreement should have a start and end or renewal date.

Is there any time when a supervisor can terminate or vary the arrangement?

The supervisor can terminate or amend the agreement based on a number or reasons, including operational changes, staffing changes, leadership changes, performance, etc. If the termination or amendment to the arrangement is not a mutual agreement, the supervisor must provide at least two weeks notice in writing to the staff member.

Can the denial of a request for a flexible work arrangement be grieved?

The grievance procedure does not apply to decisions regarding flexible work arrangement requests.

Can a request for a flexible work arrangement for the same position but in different entities or schools be handled differently? Can one be approved and the other denied?

Yes. Since every job, staff member and situation are different; it cannot be assumed that the same decision is appropriate for two similar positions. Supervisors know the operations of their department/unit(s) best and are responsible for final decisions on how to get the work accomplished. But keep in mind that supervisors have the authority to say yes or no to a flexible arrangement, or to postpone consideration of flexible arrangements to another time.

Can a supervisor mandate work arrangements for an entire unit or department?

It is in the supervisor's interest to consider individual scheduling preferences and to make the best effort to respond to these, to avoid reduced productivity or the challenges and costs of turnover. However, a supervisor may change work schedules and arrangements to accommodate organizational needs.

The staff member's ability to end the arrangement distinguishes a flexible work option from a non-traditional work schedule implemented by the school/entity/department/unit to accommodate an organizational goal. For example, if the school/entity/department/unit determines the need for extended hours or weekend coverage and requires a staff member to change to different hours of work, this becomes a requirement of the job. If the staff member does not like the arrangement, he/she may not have the ability to convert the position back to the original schedule.

Are flexible work arrangements only for mothers with childcare responsibilities?

The guidelines for flexible work arrangements at Duke are offered as a means of support for all. The concept is based on the need to make work and personal schedules more compatible. If you think you can benefit from a flexible work arrangement, speak to your supervisor to discuss what arrangements may be made to suit your own preferences and the organization's needs.

What happens if a staff member who is working a flexible work arrangement wants to return to his or her previous schedule?

The staff member should discuss this with his or her supervisor at least 30 days prior to the date he or she wishes to resume the previous schedule. The supervisor may or may not be able to approve the request, depending on the needs of the business unit.

What happens if a staff member with a flexible work arrangement transfers to another department?

The staff member and the staff member's new supervisor should discuss the situation and determine if the staff member's current flexible work arrangement is appropriate for the new position and department. The staff member may have to complete a new flexible work arrangement proposal and agreement form.

Do all flexible work arrangements at Duke have to be one of the six options defined by Duke? Can an arrangement be a combination or a modification of one of these options?

The six options described in Duke's guidelines are the most common types of flexible work options. Supervisors and staff can modify or combine elements of these or other arrangements to accommodate individual situations or needs. Regardless of the type of flexible work option, the arrangement should be formalized in writing so the expectations and responsibilities are clearly defined for both the staff member and supervisor.

How often can a person change his/her flexible work arrangement?

That will depend on a number of factors, including type of arrangement, the school/ department/unit's operational needs, the frequency of requests, the success of current arrangements, etc.

Do the guidelines for flexible work options apply to bargaining units at Duke?

No. Staff members employed in positions that are governed by a bargaining contract must negotiate flexible work arrangements.

Who initiates a request or takes primary responsibility for completing a proposal for a flexible work arrangement?

Flexible work options are generally introduced in a work environment by a staff member who determines that he/she would like to have a flexible work option. However, supervisors may also suggest flexible work options for some or all staff members. The staff member and the supervisor are encouraged to discuss their needs and to work together to develop the best possible arrangements for their situation.


What are the benefits to my department/unit/entity of flexible work arrangements?

There is a strong business case for flexible working arrangements. The benefits include:

  • Improved retention and staff commitment: staff may remain with an employer longer have a higher level of commitment when an organization provides access to more flexible work arrangements
  • Improved productivity: flexible arrangements can provide uninterrupted time for creative, repetitive or highly detailed work; they can also help take advantage of different work styles (early energy vs. late energy); flexible arrangements may also help to reduce tardiness and absences due to personal commitments.
  • Improved service: a flexible approach to working time can potentially be used to extend service delivery, improve customer relations and deal with time zone differences.
  • Cost savings: reduced staff turnover, training costs and possibly accommodation costs contribute to improving competitiveness.
  • Improved recruitment: more flexibility can attract potential staff members when vacancies arise, especially in a situation where applicants can make comparative evaluations of job offers; skilled and experienced people may be attracted back into the work force, and a match can be achieved between skills and current market shortages.

If flexible work arrangements are available to all staff members, how will supervisors handle all of the requests and ensure adequate coverage?

Traditional schedules meet the needs of the majority of staff members. Staff members who do request flexible work arrangements most often ask for slight changes in their daily arrival and departure times, changes that pose the least challenge for an staff member's supervisor and co-workers.

If a supervisor receives multiple requests that all cannot be accommodated, how do he/she rate the needs of the requesters to decide which requests to approve?

Reasons for the requests should not be used as the only factor in making a decision. If the staff members' requests are similar in terms of their ability to continue to meet job requirements, seniority and performance may be factors in determining which request to approve. The supervisor may ask the staff members for input into a solution that would enable the staff members to meet their individual needs as well as the needs of the business unit.

How do you supervise staff members working at home?

If staff members work at home as an established flexible work arrangement, then supervisors should set up a structured system for management. The emphasis will focus on the completion of tasks rather than based on time. Performance measures should be agreed and then monitored. Communication is very important for those working at home.

Once a flexible work arrangement has been approved, how can it be introduced smoothly into the work group to address perceptions of fairness or redistribution of work?

It's a good idea to make sure everyone is consulted when new working arrangements are introduced. It's part of good management practice to ensure staff members are treated fairly and that they are not overloaded with work as the result of a flexible work arrangement by another staff member. Resentment may arise if no arrangements are made to deal with part of someone's job responsibilities if the person's hours are reduced. Remember, if hours are reduced so is the pay! Where there is a worry that colleagues may find the flexible work arrangements unfair, supervisors, at the planning stage, should meet with the work group/department to define work parameters and develop a system to manage the work group/department's work schedule. For example, it would be useful to agree to procedures for the following:

  • Methods of briefing staff - e.g. on new tasks, progress, continuing tasks
  • Methods of dealing with forwarding - e.g. calls from the office, urgent correspondence, other correspondence
  • Assessing performance - how and when this will be done
  • Scheduling meetings - how and when will they be scheduled
  • Discussing problems relating to the flexible working arrangement - how and when these will be dealt with.

How should a supervisor handle a situation where it may be appropriate to approve one person's request for flexibility and deny the request of another?

All decisions should be focused on organizational needs and objective criteria related to work performance and job demands. A consistent approach to analyzing the situation should be applied. Then, it is important to communicate to each requestor the decision and its rationale. Documenting the basis for these decisions is always a good idea in case questions arise later. Staff and Labor Relations can help you develop objective criteria to use and a strategy for communicating your decision.

Can flexible work arrangements be used for a limited time to meet fluctuating work demands, such as the need for expanded hour coverage at the beginning of a semester or at the end of the fiscal year, or to allow for more flexibility when work demand is less, such as during the summer?

Yes. For example, if it would be useful for an office/unit to have extended hours during the beginning of a semester or high volume period to accommodate special demands, flextime could be implemented. Some staff could have the opportunity to work an early schedule (such as 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.), while others would work a late schedule (such as 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.). At the end of the specified time frame, traditional hours may be resumed. Likewise some offices/units may choose to offer compressed work schedules during slower time periods, with longer mid-week hours and early departure on Fridays or late arrivals Monday. Later on, this revision may no longer be appropriate for the demands of the office/unit and traditional work hours could be resumed. It is very important for the supervisor to establish clear expectations on the time frame limits of this arrangement before it begins.

What is the appropriate level supervisor who should be involved in approving a staff member's flexible work arrangement request?

This may vary by department/school/entity. If you are a supervisor who has been asked to review a flexible work arrangement request and you are not sure if other leadership staff should be involved in the evaluation process, consult with your supervisor.

Benefit/Payroll Issues

How does vacation, sick leave, holidays or PTO get calculated under a flexible work arrangement?

Tracking vacation, sick leave, holidays and PTO is the responsibility of the staff member and his/her supervisor. Refer to the Benefits/Payroll Checklist for clarification of time off usage and accruals and any other pay or benefits changes that may occur depending on the arrangement chosen.

If a part-time exempt staff member works a greater number of hours than specified in the approved flexible work arrangement request, is he or she eligible for extra pay?

As with all exempt staff members, part-time professionals are paid for the job they do rather than the number of hours required to complete the job. They are not eligible for additional pay for additional hours worked. However, if a part-time professional regularly works more than the weekly scheduled hours, the work schedule and/or job expectations may need to be re-evaluated.

If a paid holiday falls on a day on which a staff member is not normally scheduled to work, can the staff member take off one of his or her regularly scheduled days that week?

No. A staff member who is not normally scheduled to work on the day on which a holiday falls should not take another day off that week unless he or she schedules vacation or PTO. However, there may be situations in which exceptions are appropriate. For example, for a job-sharing arrangement in which one partner works the first half of the week and the other partner works the latter half of the week, the partners may want to rotate their schedules so that both partners benefit from Monday holidays.

How do flexible work arrangements affect overtime pay?

It will depend on the school/department/unit's current designated overtime option. The only arrangements that require a specific overtime option are compressed work week and job sharing. These options require all non-exempt staff to have an overtime option of #3:

  • Compensation for all qualifying overtime hours over forty in a workweek is made at one-half times the staff member's weighted average adjusted overtime rate.
  • Normally staff members on Overtime Option #3 may be paid overtime by this method only if they work a permanent ten hour or twelve hour per day work schedule, or work a schedule which frequently involves varying hours each work day.

How do flexible work arrangements affect the accrual rate for Vacation and Sick Leave or PTO?

No adjustment is required as long as regular hours worked remains the same. If an arrangement is implemented that affects hours worked such as decreasing regular hours worked with an abbreviated or part time work schedule, then an adjustment will be made by the supervisor. The supervisor should contact the Benefits Office at 684-5600 to discuss how time off accrual may be affected.

Who should a supervisor or staff member consult to determine if a flexible work arrangement may affect a person's benefits?

First review the Benefits/Payroll chart, which provides an overview of the appropriate changes for each of the flexible work options. If you still have questions, contact your entity/department HR representative or the Benefits Office at 684-5600.

Would I be eligible for additional pay if the majority of my hours fall within a shift where a premium is paid?

In cases where the staff member is requesting to work a flexible work schedule and the majority of hours fall within a shift other than that normally scheduled, the staff member is not eligible for shift premium.


Are supervisors eligible for flexible work arrangements?

Yes. Supervisors should follow the same guidelines for flexible work arrangements. However, it may be more challenging if there are staff members who need supervision during the hours you are unavailable.

Are non-exempt staff members eligible for flexible work arrangements?

Yes. Non-exempt staff members are eligible for flexible work arrangements. However, supervisors need to be mindful of wage and hour laws when evaluating non-exempt staff members' flexible work arrangement requests. Certain types of flexible work arrangements - such as a nine-day/80-hour compressed workweek - could result in overtime pay for a non-exempt staff member.

Job Sharing

I have one vacant FTE (1.0) that I would like to use for a job sharing experience. Am I limited to a 50/50 split on the FTE or do I have other options?

The division of the FTE (1.0) should be based on what it would take to complete the work and the applicant available to share the job. For example, a 60/40 split may work for your operation and meet the needs of the applicants. Ensure that the applicants understand what benefits they are eligible for based on the regular hours worked.

What if one job-sharer leaves?

Be sure to outline expectations for how this will be handled in the written agreement prior to implementing a job-sharing arrangement. The staff member should discuss this with his or her supervisor at least 30 days prior to the date he or she wishes to resume the previous schedule. The supervisor may or may not be able to approve the request, depending on the needs of the business unit.

Many supervisors offer the full-time post to the remaining sharer, but it may not be practicable for them to work full-time. Normally a job-share vacancy is advertised in the same way as any other. If filling the post is difficult the remaining sharer may have to become full-time. Or the sharer could continue part-time and the other half of the job is re-allocated.

10- or 9-Month Arrangements

How does a 10- or 9-month arrangement work?

Staff members (non-exempt and exempt) may apply annually to reduce a 12-month continuous work arrangement to either a 10- or 9-month's period of time each year where job duties and responsibilities permit. During the corresponding 2 or 3 months leave, the staff member retains eligibility for benefit plans. These arrangements work particularly well when positions are in support of 9-month faculty appointments or in employing departments where there are fluctuating work demands. In some cases, a temporary staff member may be utilized to assist during the leave period. At the end of the 2 or 3 months leave, the staff member is expected to return to their full work schedule and position.

When an individual works less than the 12-month continuous appointment, they are paid for time worked. Annual pay increases will be based on annual salary increase guidelines, performance evaluations and contributions to the department.

For a 10- or 9-month arrangement, how does the staff member ensure continuation of insurance plan coverage during the leave period?

The staff member approved for the 10- or 9-month arrangement will be able to make arrangements with the Benefits office to pay the staff member portion of the insurance plans for the period of the leave.

For a 10- or 9-month arrangement, can the staff member use accrued vacation, sick leave, holidays or PTO during the leave period?

Accrued vacation, holidays or PTO/Short Term Bank may be paid during the leave period at the staff member's request and the supervisor's approval. Accrued sick leave or PTO from the Long Term and Carry Over Banks may not be used during this period.

For a 10- or 9-month arrangement, will vacation, sick leave, holidays or PTO accrue during the leave period?

During the period of unpaid leave, vacation, sick leave, holidays nor PTO will accrue. If the staff member is being paid for accrued vacation or PTO during any portion of the leave, vacation and sick leave will accrue during any period of paid leave. Vacation/PTO will accrue pro-rata based on the 10- or 9-month appointment.