Most Federal Employees on the Job 40 Hours or More Weekly:

Tighter Controls Among Proposals for Those Who Work Less

FPCD-79-24: Published: May 21, 1979. Publicly Released: May 21, 1979.

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In order to determine the extent of compliance with federal workday requirements, a study plan was devised using two approaches: (1) a questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 3,500 civilian employees from seven of the largest federal agencies; and (2) interviews with 238 personnel officers, managers, and union representatives were conducted at 29 locations. Return rates for the questionnaire were above 80 percent. GAO studied only the time spent at the workplace, and not the productive use of that time.

Of the questionnaire respondents, 75 to 83 percent worked at least 40 hours per week, 18 to 27 percent worked 41 to 70 hours, and 17 to 26 percent worked 33.5 to 39.9 hours. Extended lunchbreaks appeared to be the most frequent abuse, particularly in urban locations where eating facilities were often congested. Supervisors generally did not place high priority on monitoring work hours for the following reasons because they: (1) trusted employees to follow policy; (2) believed most employees worked 40 hours a week and made up any lost time; and (3) believed deadlines were met. Two major issues that appeared to be emerging were: the length of the workweek and its effect on employment and productivity; and the focus of Government control.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: In considering any legislation to reduce the workweek, Congress should relate federal work-hour decreases to changes in overall productivity or other measures of performance or fringe benefit tradeoffs. To do this, better data from work measurement, productivity, and cost systems would be needed. In addition, a total compensation comparability policy would need to be established by Congress. Results of this research and demonstration project should be used to evaluate the need for changes in legislation.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Personnel Management should: (1) obtain government-wide information on all agencies' official and unofficial policies and practices on scheduled work hours, lunch, and breaks; (2) compare and evaluate those policies and practices; (3) identify the need for additional guidance; and (4) issue necessary guidance and require necessary changes. The Director should design an experiment to test the use of performance measures rather than hours at the workplace as the basis on which personnel are paid. This experiment should also test the effects of tight versus lenient controls.

    Agency Affected:


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