A workweek is any fixed seven days, consecutive 24-hour period, with a total of 168 hours that an employer sets up.
Every employer can choose their company’s workweek, which includes the starting and end days of the workweek.
However, the workweek for individual employees is the number of hours they work on those seven recurring 24-hour periods. For instance, full-time employees usually work 40 hours in the 168 hours.
On the other hand, hourly-paid employees get extra compensation, i.e., overtime pay for exceeding the 40 hours working period.
Moreover, “exempt employees” who are usually paid a fixed salary have no fixed working hours during a workweek and get the same pay even if they work more than 40 hours.
How does FLSA Define a Workweek?
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has its definition for a workweek. They define it as “A workweek is a regular, predetermined period that includes 168 hours (seven 24-hour days).”
When does the Workweek Begin?
An organization can start or end its workweek on any day of the week without following any fixed calendar week.
For example, if the calendar week begins at 12 am Tuesday, the company can begin its workweek on a Monday at 8 am rather than following the calendar. Moreover, they can also end on Monday at 7:59 am as long as the workweek is seven consecutive days. It also does not matter if the company’s employees are not working each day out of the seven days.
How Long does a Workweek Last?
A workweek should exceed 168 hours for any individual employee. Part-time workers’ working hours should be under 40 for a week to be considered part-time. Moreover, U.S. law sets a standard of 40 hours per week for a company's full-time employees.
So, an individual employee's workweek lasts for how long they are scheduled to work.
What is the Importance of a Workweek?
A workweek is crucial because it provides a consistent and standardized framework for calculating an employee's pay and benefits, tracking hours worked and determining overtime pay. It also helps employers plan staffing levels, allocate resources, and manage budgets.
By establishing a clear workweek, you ensure that employers and employees clearly understand the expectations for work schedules, hours worked, and compensation.
This consistency and structure can help prevent misunderstandings and disputes and provide a fair and transparent system for managing employment-related matters.
However, a fixed workweek is vital for an organization for two reasons.
1. To Define Overtime Pay
According to FLSA, a company must use the workweek to set up employee overtime pay. Usually, basing an employee’s overtime pay on pay periods creates problems, such as only calculating the overtime compensation if the work hours exceed 80 hours in two weeks. This does not work properly with two-week pay periods.
2. To Maintain FLSA Regulations
A company can be fined up to $10,000 or get convicted for not complying with the FLSA definition of the workweek for employees. However, a company can avoid such circumstances by maintaining a proper workweek.
How Does an Employer Choose their Workweek?
An employer chooses their workweek based on their specific business needs and operations. It can start on any day of the week or any consecutive 7-day period. However, it is essential for the employer to establish a consistent workweek and to communicate this clearly to their employees.
In some cases, the workweek may be based on the availability of most employees, the company's peak business hours, or other factors specific to the organization.
The employer must also comply with relevant labor laws, such as minimum wage requirements, overtime rules, and recordkeeping requirements, which may influence their choice of the workweek.
Once the workweek is established, it should be consistently applied to all employees, and the employer should keep accurate records of the workweek and hours worked for each employee.
How can an Employer Choose a Workweek if they Work Seven Days Each Week?
If an organization runs its business seven days per week, it can always assign multiple workweeks for different groups of workers.
For instance, a company can maintain three separate working periods for groups of employees. It can set the groups of employees to work schedules starting on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
By doing this, the company can easily maintain regular pay and overtime compensation for the employees working on those specific days.
Can an Employer Change their Workweek?
An employer can change the company workweek, but they need a valid reason.
For example, if a company was previously always closed on a Sunday and somehow, for some circumstances, it remains closed on Mondays; the company must change its workweek to Monday instead of the previously issued workweek start day, Sunday.
However, if an employer wants to change their workweek, they must give their employees adequate notice of the change and ensure that the new workweek complies with relevant labor laws.
Moreover, frequent changes in the company workweek can confuse employees and give them the wrong idea that the company is trying to avoid paying their due salary.
Changing the workweek may impact an employee's pay, hours worked, and other employment-related matters.
So, the employer should consider the change's potential impact and make any necessary adjustments to ensure compliance with labor laws and avoid disputes with employees.
How does FLSA Workweek Line with Pay Period?
An organization’s workweek and pay period may not fall on the same day if they have a different pay period other than weekly and biweekly.
For this reason, sometimes, the workweek gets split into two pay periods with two paychecks and overtime pay, which can be hard to calculate for employers.
However, an organization can count employees’ overtime pay by workweek instead of the pay period.
For instance, if a company pays their workers every two weeks a month, it will add an extra workday count to the pay period, but the workweek will remain two and start from that extra day.
This can easily create problems in calculating an employee’s salary, so it is better to use reliable payroll software.
Payroll software can track the working and overtime hours and calculate the correct final wage of the employees at each pay period.
How was Workweek Invented?
The workweek concept can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when large-scale factories and manufacturing operations emerged.
During this time, the traditional agrarian-based economy was transformed by the growth of factories and the rise of industrialization.
For example, it is known that Ford Motors adopted the standard 40 hours workweek in 1926 and was the first to do so.
The workweek as we know it today, with a standard set of five workdays and two days off, was established to respond to the demands of this new industrial economy.
The FLSA of the United States enacted this modern workweek in 1938. It allowed employers to more efficiently schedule their workforce and meet their customers' needs while giving employees a predictable schedule and time off for rest and relaxation.
However, the first act stated the workweek to have 44 hours, but later in 1940, FLSA changed it to 40 hours to give employees more flexibility in their personal lives.