Staff Working Hours

9 Apr 2008 Alex Hastings    Last updated: 22 Jul 2019

This article outlines NICVA’s policy with regard to staff working hours.

Preface by Seamus McAleavey, CEO


NICVA believes its best asset is its staff.  The organisation strives for high performance in all that it does and that is dependent on staff motivated to give their best.

To achieve this NICVA endeavours to help its staff achieve work life balance through a flexible approach to working arrangements based on give and take between the organisation and its people. To work well this requires even handed commitment from both to achieve a balance that recognises the needs of individual staff and the needs of the organisation.

All requests concerning flexible work arrangements are welcome. All requests will be given careful consideration though not all requests may be possible to approve. 

All staff will be treated fairly and equitably in their treatment. Individual flexible working arrangements seeking to make permanent changes will be considered under NICVA’s Flexible Working Policy.

Aims of NICVA’s Working Hours Policy

NICVA’s Working Hours Policy has been revised to develop this version (January 2018) following consultation with staff to seek to achieve a more flexible approach to the working life at NICVA.  This aims of this policy are:

  • to ensure the provision of the best possible service to meet NICVA’s objectives and fulfil NICVA’s Vision, Mission and Values
  • to enable employees to achieve their full potential at work by achieving a better relationship between their personal and professional lives.
  • that it should be operated in the spirit it is intended, following the guiding principles at its core which are set out below.

Guiding Principles of NICVA’s Working Hours Policy

The following principles are fundamental to the success of the practical application of this policy by individuals and teams in NICVA:

  • The work of NICVA must take absolute priority.
  • Common sense, good will, trust and integrity from all employees and managers are paramount in successfully implementing more flexible working practices.
  • Effective communication between individuals and teams is essential.
  • A more flexible workforce should seek to fulfil NICVA’s values including, ‘NICVA strives for excellence in all that it does in order to provide high quality services.’

The successful application of the policy is dependent on all staff adhering to these principles and is for the benefit of all. Any abuse of the policy, which is based on trust, will be dealt with under NICVA’s Disciplinary Policy.

Seamus McAleavey

Chief Executive, NICVA

Section 1 - Starting and Finishing Times

The full time working week in NICVA is 35 hours. To meet the needs of NICVA’s members and customers, staff must be available for a core time each day during the hours of 10am and 4pm. Any exception to this must be agreed.

Staff may start work between the hours of 8am and 10am and may finish work between the hours of 4pm and 6pm.

Ordinarily full-time staff must work a seven-hour day within the times set out above and each department should seek to achieve an appropriate level of cover over the course of the week to ensure effective and efficient service provision. For example, it would be inappropriate for all staff in the organisation/department to start work at 8am and finish at 4pm as we are a small organisation, open from 9am – 5pm.

Currently in NICVA employees have set working hours and it isn’t anticipated that this will change a great deal. Employees and managers will most likely maintain regular hours of work, however where there are no prior work commitments that could be adversely affected, it will be allowed that you can vary your start and finish times without the express approval of your line manager. If however, you wish to make a more permanent change to your regular working hours, then you should discuss this with your line manager. The flexibility to start and finish times as outlined below is not a flexi system but is intended to provide flexibility on occasion to assist all employees in achieving a manageable balance between work and home life.

Occasional Flexible Starting and Finishing Times

As NICVA is a small organisation, it is preferable that all staff indicate to their team and line manager what their likely weekly working pattern will be so that availability is known through clear communication between individuals, teams and colleagues.

It is likely that because of commutes, childcare, out of work commitments and general routines and preferences etc, most individuals will have an idea of the start/finish times that will work for them, so most employees will be able to give an indication of likely start and finish times from Monday to Friday.

The operation of this policy allows for a more flexible approach on occasion to the start and therefore finish times within the bands outlined above of 8am – 10am and 4pm – 6pm. What this means in practice is that an employee may choose to start later (and therefore finish later) than their usual start time without seeking prior approval, within the bands outlined, so long as a seven-hour day is completed and this is demonstrated by the examples below.

The aim of this flexibility is to support NICVA’s continued excellent service provision, whilst also providing greater ability for employees to develop a good work life balance to manage situations which arise outside of work.


  1. Employee A usually works 9am – 5pm. Employee A has a meeting to attend at 8am. Instead of accruing TOIL the employee could decide to start work at 8am that day and leave at 4pm, without seeking line management approval.
  2. Employee B usually works 8.30am to 4.30pm. Employee B is away for the weekend and the return flight is delayed, meaning they get in after 11pm. Within this policy, Employee B can come into work at 10am without being considered late for work. Employee B may then adjust their finish time to 6pm. In this scenario, it goes without saying that this option would not be available to the employee if they had any pre-existing work commitment at 8.30am whether it be a deadline, a meeting or prep for a 9am meeting etc.  
  3. Employee C usually works from 8am – 4pm with an hour for lunch but is delivering an evening training session from 5pm – 7pm. Within the parameters of this policy Employee C may choose on this day to start work at 10am, and will then work until 7pm, accruing 1 hours TOIL, signed off by the line manager. In this case, as this is a planned course, it is likely Employee C could mention to their colleagues that this is what they plan to do.

Section 2 - Lunch Times

A lunch break of a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of two hours may be taken between the hours of 12noon and 2pm.  

Traditionally lunch in NICVA has been taken between 1pm and 2pm however within this policy, the period within which an employee may take a lunch break is between 12noon and 2pm. In addition, the minimum and maximum times for a lunch break are extended each day to a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of two hours. NICVA sees this as a positive step to providing a continued service to our customers as lunch times may be more staggered and will vary in length. In addition, the lunch time flexibility will enable staff to undertake personal matters at lunch time that may take longer than an hour or staff will be able to take a shorter lunch and leave work earlier to facilitate work and personal commitments.

It is hoped that as with Section 1, employees will have an idea of the lunch break they are most likely to take each day and in particular the length of it as this will dictate the working hours including start and finish times. However, the policy intention is that the lunch time and duration may vary on occasion depending on work and personal circumstances without prior line management approval.


  1. Employee D usually works 9am – 5pm and takes an hour for lunch. However, in the lead up to Christmas and as allowed within the parameters of the Working Hours Policy Employee D decides to avail of the flexibility built into the policy on lunch times and takes a longer lunch on two days each week in December. This does not require line manager approval as it is a temporary measure for a limited time period but is enabled through this policy and is a matter of trust that Employee D will still complete seven hours work so will now work to 6pm or will start at 8am to ensure a 7-hour day is completed.
  2. Employee E has chosen to work 8am to 4pm daily with a one-hour lunch. Within the parameters of this policy Employee E cannot take a lunch shorter than one hour as the core hours need to be worked and the earliest finish time is 4pm.
  3. Employee F usually works from 8.30am – 4.30pm and takes a one-hour lunch. Employee F is delivering an evening training session from 6pm – 8pm and so decides to start work at 10am, takes a two-hour lunch and claims one hour’s TOIL as they will have worked an eight-hour day. The only element of this requiring line manager approval is sign off of one hour’s TOIL. Again, in this scenario, Employee F might tell colleagues this is what they plan to do.
  4. Employee G receives a text from a friend at 11am suggesting lunch in Belfast city centre at 12.30pm. Employee G usually takes an hour lunch at 1pm but can choose to take a longer lunch and work on for half an hour without seeking line manager approval. Employee G will communicate this to Reception.
  5. An employee wishing to agree a long lunch on a permanent basis on one day in the week for example, should have this agreed with their line manager.

Section 3 - Homeworking

NICVA supports employees to achieve their work to the best of their ability and recognises that on occasion it may be beneficial for an employee to work from home to complete focussed work requiring attention to detail, few distractions and that which does not require face to face interaction with colleagues.

If a situation arises where an employee considers that working from home would be beneficial on an ad hoc basis, this may be allowed in the following circumstances with approval from line managers:

  • Where a specific task needs dedicated and focused input and/or could be dealt with more efficiently at home e.g. saved travelling time and lack of interruptions. 
  • Where it is difficult for staff to get in to work e.g. adverse weather*/severe traffic delays.

A request to work from home must not be used to facilitate other personal commitments such as childcare as NICVA has a range of other policies in place to deal with specific work life balance matters.

In exceptional circumstances staff working from home outside normal working hours may claim TOIL provided their line manager has granted prior approval.  

*Staff should make every effort to attend work (including consideration of other transport/travel options) during adverse weather conditions without putting their personal safety at risk. It is for each staff member to decide what is safe and reasonably practicable for them to avoid travelling in hazardous conditions whether that be flooding, heavy snow, thick fog etc.  Other options such as taking annual leave, TOIL remain available at short notice with approval from your line manager in such circumstances, if working from home is not feasible.

Policies related to this and Work Life Balance are contained in Section 3 of the staff handbook and include:

  • Work Life Balance policy (TOIL and annual leave)
  • Flexible Working policy
  • Career Break policy
  • Time off for Dependants
  • Maternity, Paternity, Adoption, Parental and Shared Parental leave
  • Compassionate Leave
  • Additional Special Leave
We share NICVA’s policies to assist organisations in drafting their own. However, our policies are relevant to NICVA and are not samples. They should not be replicated, but may be used for reference purposes, in conjunction with other guidance available. NICVA cannot accept any claims arising from error or misinterpretation.'s picture
by Alex Hastings

Human Resources Manager

[email protected]

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