Flexitime is probably one of the earliest quintessential introductions of
employee-led flexibility and took off in the UK in the 1970s.
Due to the rather bureaucratic nature of many flexitime schemes and, perhaps
more importantly, the fact that the scale of flexibility and choice over
working time is tipped firmly in the direction of the employee, the demise of
flexitime schemes have frequently been predicted.
This, however, is not confirmed by the Cranet survey. Although only a third
of organisations in this country are increasing their use of flexitime, there
is no evidence that they have gone out of fashion completely.
In the UK there are strong sectoral differences with public-sector
organisations more likely to have flexitime schemes and to have evolved them.
The UK has the lowest increase in flexitime in Europe apart from Greece and
In the Netherlands, 73 per cent of organisations have widened their use of
flexitime. Extensive growth has also taken place in Austria, Belgium and
Germany – none from a low base.
Flexitime was developed in Germany, where it is more widespread than other
EU countries. Administration of schemes is likely to be automated there because
it is common for non-manual staff as well as manual workers who clock in.
One reason for the wider spread of flexitime in many other EU countries is
the fact that working time is more strictly regulated – by statute and by
collective or workplace agreement – than in the UK. British employers can get
significant flexibility in working time without having formal schemes. This is
less likely in countries like Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands or
But while British employers have greater flexibility, they have less of a
curb on the long-hours culture and hence less pressure to come up with
solutions that allow a healthy work-life balance.