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Four Steps to Alternate Work Schedules in California

Giselle Solorzano
Posted by Giselle Solorzano on June 17, 2020

There are times when proposing a new Alternative Work Schedule (AWS) would benefit your practice, and perhaps even your employees.  HR for Health has put together four steps that you must follow in order to implement an AWS in your practice.

However, before we get there let’s talk about what an AWS is.  For starters, an AWS is only applicable in the state of California.  Other states would simply fall under the Flexible Work Schedule.

What is an Alternative Work Schedule in California?

Simply put, an AWS refers to a compressed or flexible work schedule - with a few more rules in place.  While there is some benefit for employers (i.e. overtime pay), AWSs are also popular amongst employees who prefer flexible work schedules and the extra time off.  An AWS does require employees to waive their right to receive overtime pay.

California Labor Code Section 510(a)(1) states that “any work in excess of 8 hours in one day shall be compensated at the overtime rate of time and a half. This does not apply, however, to an employee working pursuant to a properly adopted AWS.”

The two things we’d like to point out is 1) time and a half does NOT apply to employees working an AWS AND 2), the fact that it says, “properly adopted AWS”.  That’s right, there are measures in place that must be properly taken for an AWS to be legitimate.

Examples of an Alternative Work Schedule

Two of the most common AWSs in California are the “4/10” and the “9/80” schedules.  Here’s how they work:

Under the 4/10 schedule, employees work for four days at 10 hours per day with no overtime pay, however, they will receive an additional day off from work.

Under the 9/80 schedule, employees work for nine days in which 80 hours are compressed into those nine days.  Employees working the 9/80 schedule would not receive overtime pay despite working an additional eight hours but would however receive an extra day off from work every two weeks.

1. Determine the work unit.

You first must determine the work unit, or group of employees who will be affected by the change. This can mean a department, a job classification, a shift, or even an individual employee if he or she is the only person in that department, job classification, or shift. A work unit can also include a separate physical location if applicable.

2. Propose a written schedule to the affected work unit.

The proposed agreement must designate an alternate workweek, including a specified number of regularly recurring workdays and work hours. The schedule must provide no less than two consecutive days off within each workweek. You don’t have to specify specific days and hours, but you must say how many days a week and how many hours per day are proposed.

An example of this would be the referenced 4/10 alternate work schedule mentioned above.  The 4/10 work schedule is when an employer specifies that the employee must work 10 hours per day for four days out of the week.   

Remember that this is a legally binding schedule which you cannot deviate from week to week. If the AWS is changed for a week, there must be proper notice between employer and employee, as well as a signed agreement. Also remember that you must account for a lunch. So, if you are scheduling them 10 work hours, the proposed AWS cannot be from 10am-8pm, but must include an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour for lunch. Also, if your proposal is approved, you are agreeing to pay employees for the proposed number of hours. Therefore, if you send a worker home early, you will still be required to pay him for the full number of promised hours (this is not required, however, if the employee chooses to leave early).

3. Provide a written disclosure of the effects of the proposed AWS. 

This disclosure must be in both English and a non-English language if at least five percent of the affected employees primarily speak that language. You must hold a meeting at least 14 days prior to voting, in order to inform employees of the effects of the AWS on the employees’ wages, hours, and benefits. Additionally, employees must be given advance notice of this meeting. Any employees who cannot attend this meeting must be mailed a copy of the written disclosure.

4. Hold a secret ballot election.

All affected employees in the work unit are entitled to vote upon the proposed schedule, which requires a two-thirds vote to become effective. You must file the election results with the state's Division of Labor Statistics and Research within 30 days after the results are final. You must then wait 30 days, as employees may not be required to work the AWS until 30 days have passed.

Generally speaking, the overall process to implement an Alternative Work Schedule in your California practice can take around two months from the date of the proposal to the implementation.  It is imperative that you follow the above four steps to ensure the AWS is properly adopted within your practice to avoid any possible penalties or violations.

The State of California Department of Industrial Relations has a database of employers who have filed alternate workweek election results with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and can be found here: 

For further information or guidance on creating an AWS for your California based practice, HR for Health is ready to assist. Schedule a call today!


If you are a current HR for Health client and have additional questions, please reach out to our team by calling 877-779-4747. Please keep in mind that due to an influx in questions related to the COVID-19 outbreak, our response time may be slower than usual, but we will get back to you as soon as we can! 

If you are not a current HR for Health client and have additional questions, please schedule an HR consultation with us by booking time here or calling us at 877-779-4747, option 1. 

We provide services to help you handle compliance with state laws, hiring, and all your other HR needs.  If you have questions about managing your employees during the COVID-19 pandemic or any other questions, please reach out to us and SCHEDULE A CALL, or call: 877.779.4747, or email:

HR for Health is one of the nation’s leading Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) used by small to mid-sized practices. HR for Health has provided the following complimentary articles to ensure you have a game plan when addressing complex HR matters.


Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance. Learn about HR for Health's HR services

Topics: Wages, Hour, california, employment updates

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