A workweek describes any seven consecutive days (or 168 hours) of business. The fixed, regularly-recurring period is established by the employer and used to calculate overtime and keep the team working toward a consistent timeline.
There is no single, standard workweek. Instead, employers can choose their workweek based on what works best for the business, employees, and desired output.
How to determine a workweek
In the United States, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines a workweek as a fixed, recurring period of seven consecutive 24-hour days. Once a workweek ends, the next one begins. The workweek can begin on any day, at any time, and it doesn’t need to follow a calendar week.
For example, a business may begin its workweek on a Tuesday at 8 pm, ending at 7:59 pm on the following Tuesday. When working with an international team and processing international payroll, it’s wise to stipulate the timezone.
A workweek can also be used to describe the number of hours that an employee works during the seven consecutive 24-hour periods.
- Full-time wage workers — usually work 40 hours per week
- Part-time workers — hours may vary but must be less than 40 hours per week
- Hourly workers —-time worked beyond 40 hours is considered overtime and paid a premium rate
- Salaried (exempt) employees — there is no limit to the number of hours they can work with their fixed salary
Why is a workweek important?
Workweeks are useful for various reasons, helping employers to remain compliant with state and local regulations. In particular, a workweek structure helps with overtime pay and FLSA compliance.
An established workweek helps employers calculate the amount of overtime pay owed to employers during a pay period.
Nonexempt employees can earn overtime pay when working more than 40 hours per workweek. When an employee works overtime, they are usually paid time and a half for the additional hours. The exact reimbursement should be outlined in the employment contract.
Workweeks are also used for FLSA overtime compliance, ensuring that employees are paid overtime according to state and local laws.
Take note: Details of overtime compliance may differ for remote employees, so international businesses should keep this in mind.
Choosing when to start your workweek
A company should start its official workweek on a day when the employees are not actively gaining hours, making it easier to calculate payroll. Once an employer has established a workweek, it should be maintained to streamline admin.
Top tip: Ensure the starting time of the workweek is outside of any shifts to avoid a few minutes overlapping on various workweeks.
For example, imagine that your business follows the traditional two-day weekend of Saturday and Sunday, with employees starting work on Monday at 9 am. It’s useful to start the workweek on Sunday at 8 pm before employees start accumulating hours the following day. If an employee arrives early for their shift, the minutes will still fall into the workweek.
Following this method makes it easier to determine overtime hours from regular hours.
In a business operating seven days a week, it’s useful to incorporate multiple workweeks that apply to different groups of employees. These groups can be defined by division, department, shift, and physical location for remote employees.
For example, nurses working 12-hour shifts may only work three to four days per week, and the hospital may have multiple work weeks. An international company can also benefit from multiple workweeks as employees work across geographical boundaries.
Workweek vs. pay period
A pay period can be weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly. While a workweek refers to the amount of time an employee works during a set seven consecutive day period, a pay period is the time period over which an employee is paid.
The workweek calculates the amount of overtime owed to an employee, while the pay period describes when the employee receives the overtime pay.