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Rules around Civil Service Flexi Time

  • 23-03-2023 11:19pm
    Registered Users Posts: 63 ✭✭


    A question for fellow Civil Servants. I'm a HEO in an area of a Department which, like most other areas, has flexitime. We have an AP who is persistently organising meetings for during lunchtime. It's now seriously getting on the nerves of two of my staff who have approached me about it.

    I'm conscious that core times are 10:00-12:30 and 2:30-4:00 and that everybody has to be around during these times, that the working day is 7 hours, with a working week of 35 hours. Obviously, the concept of flexi time is that you can start earlier/finish earlier, start later/finish later, take a shorter or longer lunch, carry time forward into the next 4 week period, etc.

    Everybody is reasonable - like if a meeting was booked in for 11-12:30 (when everybody in theory should be take their lunch) but it overran for 15/20 minutes - these things happen, I'm sure it wouldn't bother anybody - they'd just take a later lunch. Equally, if there were no meeting rooms available at other times and it was just a once off thing - I'm sure nobody would mind. But this is becoming a weekly occurrence. Like this week, there was a unit meeting that started around 12:15 and ran until 1:45. So, slim pickings left in the canteen (first world problem!)

    One of my staff attempted to approach the AP in question themselves, put it to them that they should be able to take their lunch at 12:30 and were, I understand, told that "flexitime is a privilege".

    Bluntly, they are routine unit meetings - they aren't something that needs to be specially organised at a mutually convenient time for another business area or any other Department/external party. We have a 35 hour working week and the technology to hold meetings online through Zoom - they could easily be held even while part of the unit is working from home.

    I have attempted to find the relevant circulars to see where I stand before approaching the AP about it to see if they'll consider holding them outside lunchtime, but am still not 100% sure where I stand. Do my staff on flexitime just have to accept they've to be around during lunchtime if they are told to? Or are they free to go on lunch any time they see fit between 12:30 and 2:30?

    (The two staff in question have made it clear to me they intend to walk out of the meeting at 12:30 if it happens again - If they just have to accept they've to be around, I'll try to discourage them. Although personally I've never been in the habit of organising lunchtime meetings).




  • Registered Users Posts: 1,629 ✭✭✭wench

    Flexi may be a privilege, but if it wasn't in operation, the staff would be entitled to 1:15 for lunch, which his meetings don't allow for.

    5. The normal attendance period for civil servants will be from 9.12am to 5.30pm Monday to

    Thursday, and 9.12am to 5.15pm on Friday with 1 hour and 15 minutes for lunch break.

    (Circular 14/2022)

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,903 ✭✭✭trashcan

    I think you may have to suck it up. To be honest if the meeting went on to about one pm I don’t think you’d have much cause for complaint. I know technically you can clock out for lunch at 12.30, ( doesn’t mean you “ should” be clocking out at 1#.30 btw.) but I think 1O’clock is normally seen as reasonable enough. 1.45 is pushing it a bit I agree, especially for a routine weekly meeting. Really, you’re relying on your AP not to be a dick about it. Not sure how much recourse you actually have.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,059 ✭✭✭Sarn

    I think most people could accept a regular meeting running until 1-1.15, but a meeting regularly taking up most of the lunch period is unreasonable.

    The circular posted by wench above looks to be the best way to approach it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,437 ✭✭✭caviardreams

    Agree that 1-2 is typically seen as lunchtime - flexi periods allow flexibility around this depending on business needs.

    Getting up and leaving at 12:30 is ridiculous and will undermine the argument imo. Are these people taking lunch from 12:30-2:30 everyday? If so, are they still getting their 7 hours done? If so they must be working from 8, or until 7, so you could suggest the meeting is held 8-10 instead, or 5-7 instead of lunch as an alternative.

    If you can only ever organise meetings during the core bands, this is only 4 hours per day, 20 hours per week. Many people spend more time in meetings than this so it would simply be impossible to limit meetings to these hours.

    flexitime is a privilege and business needs absolutely take preference, however I think it is definitely a reasonable request to get enough time to take a one hour lunch break, whether this is 1:20-2:30 or whatever.

  • Registered Users Posts: 63 ✭✭757TFFIU

    Thanks folks. I agree that standing up and walking out of a meeting at 12.30 would probably undermine the point the two staff are trying to make. I'll try to sit down with them and discourage that.

    They are complying with flexitime requirements, doing 7 hour days, etc. There aren't massive deficits on their clocks or anything like that. I'd have dealt with that before it got out of hand.

    That circular 14/2022 does seem to be the strongest case.

    I'll try to reason with the AP for a 1/1:15 finish to give people a bit of flexibility. Unfortunately the AP in question is not the easiest individual in the world to work with and seems to have forgotten that flexibility and goodwill works on both sides. So, it was only a matter of time before something came to a head.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 5,510 ✭✭✭Wheety

    A unit meeting taking an hour and a half is silly. I bet lots of things talked about don't involve everyone. Unit meetings should be a short catch up. I hate when manager's go on too long. Always end up with people talking about something they should (to use management speak) 'take offline'.

    The time is silly too. You should talk to your manager and ask if the meetings can be at a more reasonable time. We have a 10 minute catch up in ours at 11pm on a Tuesday.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,428 ✭✭✭✭Flinty997

    How is possible to have a lunch with a 12:15 - meeting 1:45. I assume there a rule that requires a contiguous 30 mins for lunch.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,629 ✭✭✭wench

    The afternoon core period doesn't start until 2:30, so technically there is time for 30 mins for lunch.

  • Registered Users Posts: 278 ✭✭BhoyRayzor

    Personally I wouldn't resort to the circular and would be more inclined to take a softer approach with them given what you have alluded to in that they are difficult to deal with.

    To give them the benefit of the doubt they could have other meetings organised for them with their PO, other projects, APs, etc. for the rest of the day so around lunch time is the only time that is left. On the other hand this could be just them wanting to assert their authority over the unit. Either way there is only going to be one winner if they don't understand the need for or are willing to get a consensus on what should be a simple issue like this.

    All you can do is bring the issue to their attention, outside of that if it is still an issue between the EO/CO's and them then it is for the AP to deal with and the consequences. If it were me I wouldn't be getting any more involved than that. It's their team to run, they are ultimately responsible for everyone in the unit and are getting paid for that privilege. While technically they are leaving for the minimum of 30 minutes for lunch, common sense would dictate leaving at least between 1pm and 2pm free for people.

  • Posts: 1,539 ✭✭✭[Deleted User]

    The problem with a meeting running on until 1:45pm is some of the attendees could have other meetings scheduled to begin at 2pm and therefore not get time for a proper lunch break.

    AP sounds like they are being awkward for the sake of it. I would never allow a meeting to run on past 1:15pm for this very reason. I don't know all the details of others schedules.

    I wouldn't leave at 12:30 to prove a point, but I would excuse myself and leave, if the meeting was not over by 1:15pm.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 5,437 ✭✭✭caviardreams

    I think the mindset of the staff that they are free to go on lunch "any time they see fit between 12:30 and 2:30" is the issue here really. That's not what flexi time is - it's flexibility around business needs, business needs taking priority (once everyone still has right to a full lunch break etc protected). But it is about give and take - the extra flexibility through the flexi bands and start times, means that flexibility needs to be given back for business needs also.

    How often does the meeting go on past 1:15/20 would be the issue for me. If it is once or twice, it is one of those things, if it is every week it's an issue.

    I disagree with the poster who said it's not your responsibility to deal with the CO fallout - you are the line manager so it is. The AP line manages you, not them. You need to manage the CO/EO and the situation.

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,519 ✭✭✭billyhead

    Are the meetings even constructive or are they meetings for the sake of having meetings. A lot of time in the CS is wasted with unnecessary meetings. At some of these meetings some people just like having there voice heard and you can't get a word in.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,428 ✭✭✭✭Flinty997

    Given back?

    Flexitime, sometimes also called flextime, is a working schedule which allows employees to choose when to start and end their workday, and/or how long to take their break for, within agreed limits set by management. It’s one of the key ways to increase work flexibility and attractiveness of a workplace.

    Effectively what this AP is doing is intentionally nullifying part of the flexitime. It doesn't seem (from the OPs comments) that this meeting at this time or this length is actually required.

    I don't see there's anyway of dissuading who is deliberately being difficult from changing their ways. People will just find way to disengage from the meeting to the point when it becomes pointless. We are going through this process with one meeting at the moment. Its now down to a fortnightly and gone from an hour to 10~15 mins. The instigator goes around the room and people have a curt stock reply. Lots of people find other tasks that make them unavailable.

    We used to have manager that regularly had an ad doc meeting end of day like 4.30pm. Everyone would make it look they were still in the office, PC on, coat on back of chair, work open on desk. But they'd snuck out.

    I think its one of those situation where it best to take a back seat. See how it develops and not be caught in the fall out.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,428 ✭✭✭✭Flinty997

    Its not unique to CS. Especially in a age of hybrid working many people have replaced being seen in the office with being seen at meeting. Look at me I'm so busy.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,437 ✭✭✭caviardreams

    To be fair, the issue of whether or not the meeting is well run or productive is a separate issue to the flexitime / lunch timing.

    i can only speak for my own department, but the sense with flexitime is that business needs come first, so you don't automatically get to take a two hour lunch every day just because you might want to, if business needs aren't consistent with that e.g. if you need to man a phone line until 5pm or ensure thee is cover in an office 9-5 you don't just get to leave at 4pm every day because you want to It's a shared discussion and give and take.

    If some employees aren't engaging in team meeting and not co-operating or being responsive, then that's actually a dignity and respect issue and at the very least, passive aggressive and unprofessional imo.

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,655 ✭✭✭✭Mrs OBumble

    Are the staff who are complaining putting in a fair days work given the wage they're getting?

    Of are they deadheads counting the years until they retire and doing as littleas possiblein the meantime?

    That should very much influence what you do.

    As for the little choice left in the canteen ... bring your own lunch.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,428 ✭✭✭✭Flinty997

    Having a meeting that unproductive and disruptively scheduled speaks volumes.

    It's the actions of the AP that are passive aggressive and unprofessional. All it will do is create unnecessary conflict for no reason. If you don't treat people with respect you won't get it back.

    Don't shoot the messenger.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,428 ✭✭✭✭Flinty997

    And we're back to victim blaming.

    Someone complains about a daft meeting. So rather than addressing the issue you start a witch hunt.

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,655 ✭✭✭✭Mrs OBumble

    No, I start with understanding the context.

    I don't think you understand what a witch-hunt is.

    And being asked to work within your contractual hours is certainly not victimisation.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,428 ✭✭✭✭Flinty997

    The issue is persistent organizing meetings at lunchtime, when they don't (according to the OP) don't need to be.

    Your solution. Call the attendees names "deadheads" and imply they are slackers and "ageist" those waiting to retire do as little as possible.

    That's quite the attack on people while ignoring the issue entirely.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 25,655 ✭✭✭✭Mrs OBumble

    I didn't call anyone anything.

    I asked a question and presented two possibilities - with question marks on the end. The actual situation is likely something in the middle.

    You clearly have no experience of certain parts of the public sector, if you have never met the time servers. Not everyone who is within X years of retirement is on a count down. But some absolutely are.

    Post edited by Mrs OBumble on

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,054 ✭✭✭Augme

    To be clear OP, as the HEO you are responsible for the performance of the EOs, the AP is responsible for your performance. If EOs get up and leave a meeting at 1230 and it's not been agreed upon then it is your responsibility to manage and resolve that situation with the EOs. The idea that any issues arising from this are for the AP to fix and you can just avoid it aren't fully accurate so be mindful of that.

    If I was you'd I'd have a word with the AP and see if he is willing to change. Then have a word with the staff. My suggestion would be to encourage them to had in a transfer request if they can't handle the current situation, getting up and just leaving a meeting at 1230 is the last thing you want to happen.

    Post edited by Augme on

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,428 ✭✭✭✭Flinty997

    The thread isn't about the entire public sector and your opinions of it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,428 ✭✭✭✭Flinty997

    Do you think the AP is likely to change? I think it's likely.

  • Registered Users Posts: 63 ✭✭757TFFIU

    Thanks for the opinions folks. Good to have gotten a few different perspectives on it.

    In the great scheme of things it's not irresolvable... Hopefully it can be sorted out in the office this week.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,054 ✭✭✭Augme

    Very hard to know without more specifics. As a general rule of thumb from my experiences, people will change in this situation if they feel the alternative is a worse option. For example if the AP is ambitious and the prospects of losing their staff on mass to transfer or their work will diminish significantly they'll change.

    If they are just a difficult prick then it's less likely.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,428 ✭✭✭✭Flinty997

    Personally I think the latter case is far more likely.

    By that I mean I doubt there will mass transfer in any meaningful way that would impact the AP. But perhaps you've see other wise in the past.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,437 ✭✭✭caviardreams

    Agree. Let's be honest the vast majority of people prefer to blame and criticise others, rather than take action/responsibility for fixing their own unhappiness. It's a lot easier to point the finger at somebody else then take a risk and take on the challenge and hard work of a new role, and take ownership of fixing and improving your own problems.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,054 ✭✭✭Augme

    I do agree with you. It's rare that it happens. In situations like this the staff will just keep turning up to the meetings and continue to bitch about it.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,671 ✭✭✭PhoenixParker

    I'd suggest you approach the AP and say that staff need to have at least 1 hour free between 12:30 and 2:30 to enable them take lunch.

    Flexitime or no flexitime, that's a very reasonable and standard requirement. Flexitime is a priviledge, but the lunchbreak itself is a right not a priviledge. As others have pointed out, if there was no flexitime the lunchbreak would be about 1 hour.

    Can you get your staff buy in on that, and support them if they want the meeting to finish by 1:30 vs walking out at 12:30 to make a point?