Some companies or professions require some of their employees to stay “on-call” and to be available to work on a limited notice. In some cases, such as in hospitals, this can be life or death situations, or it can also be something less critical such as a lunch rush at a restaurant.
On-call arrangements are something that most businesses, such as retail and restaurants, have implemented in case of emergencies such as traffic or a freeway accident.
It’s a way for businesses to be prepared for anything to happen without ending up short-staffed or at a disadvantage.
In this article, we’ll discuss what reasonable compensation is and what else can be done to make on-call employees feel well compensated for their time.
What Being On-Call Means
When we say on-call employees, these are employees who don’t work based on a fixed time. They must be available to work at any time if called upon.
An example of this is a trauma nurse who has to return to the hospital if paged or a firefighter who remains at the station until they’re called to work.
Another example can be found in restaurants or supermarkets, particularly during the rush hour or the holidays when these businesses require more staff present than usual.
When you have workers on-call, you notify them in advance that you will need them to report to work at a specific time. On-call employees can be directed to stay on-site (such as in hospitals) or to be reachable should they leave the company building.
The Difference Between Part-Time and On-Call Work
The basic difference between part-time and on-call work is that part time employees still follow a set schedule but not the complete working hours.
On-call workers’ time is their own until they’re called in. And even then, it depends on the restrictions imposed by their employers or how many times they’re called.
Some restrictions applied by employers could be limiting the places they can go to or the activities they can do, such as not drinking alcoholic beverages while on-call.
The disadvantage with on-call work is that some businesses use this to skirt wages, stating that employees on call without pay isn’t unjust if they’re on standby and not performing their duties yet.
Critics also argue that on-call positions are disadvantageous for sales clerks and other similar positions, as it puts restrictions on their personal life and plans without knowing if they will be called to work or not.
Even on-call employees who are home-based have limited time to work on their own errands if they’re called to work.
What Is Reasonable Compensation?
When we say compensation, it refers to what an employee gets in exchange for work. This is a combination of wages, salaries, and benefits, although what is offered can depend on the employer.
Reasonable compensation is compensation that’s consistent with the work an employee accomplishes or the duties involved with their job.
This also applies to workers who are on-call and not working regular hours. On-call workers are still entitled to be paid for their time, whether or not they have to stay at work or not.
Aside from people who work in hospitals or emergency services, most on-call employees are found in IT companies. Computer technicians or troubleshoot experts can be called in for work even on weekends.
Other examples are maintenance workers, who have to remain available in case of emergencies, and other hospital staff members.
On-call work typically affects one’s personal life. On-call employees may never know when they will be called, and so, they have to be reachable at all times. Some employers are also strict about what their employees can do even outside of their working hours.
How Should On-Call Employees Be Paid?
Employees like to be compensated for the time they spend on the clock. Not feeling well-compensated can have an effect on employee morale and productivity.
Whether or not they do something on the job, on-call employees are still entitled to payments. They are typically paid for the time spent that they’re available for work.
However, determining pay for on-call employees can be ambiguous. It’s harder to calculate compensation when they spend their time outside of the work area.
When deciding on cases where on-call employees demand to be paid for their time, some of the factors considered by employment lawyers are:
1. The number of calls or alerts received
If they’re frequently asked to dedicate many hours at work, the personal lives of on-call employees can be affected. Compensation should be given when the employee receives work calls frequently.
2. The time given for the employee to respond to the call
If employers set a time limit or require their employees to respond immediately after being paged, the employees are more likely to be entitled to compensation.
3. The restrictions set by the employer
Some employers ban their employees from consuming alcohol; some set limits on how far they can go from the site. This can be difficult if the employee is in the middle of a personal errand and is required to respond right away.
Compensation Packages for On-Call Workers
Some companies create compensation packages that are geared specifically for on-call workers. These packages can offer a number of additional benefits outside of the standard salaries given to employees.
When on-call employees are required to respond as soon as possible, it can be difficult for them to schedule or plan events during their personal time.
Giving them benefits that are somewhat similar to what full and part-time employees have might be a competitive advantage for a company, especially in today’s hiring market.
Companies can conduct annual meetings or candid feedback as a way to find out what their employees want for their compensation package. These can be added benefits such as paid sick leaves and allowances, among others.
Some companies already provide on-call pay outside of what the law requires them.
If you’re working an on-call job, you can check your employee handbook or get into contact with the HR department to see if you qualify.
Observe Laws by State
On-call employees are still entitled to the same treatment and benefits as regular and even part-time employees. When they make themselves available, their employers are entitled to pay them for the time they spend.
Some employers have strict environments—requiring that the employee can’t use their time for their own purposes. This kind of setting is considered as payable “hours worked.”
In some states, the law requires that however little an employee works, they’re entitled to be paid for at least four hours after their employer calls them in.
It’s important to stay updated on new legal developments so as not to be left in the dark about these policies. New regulations and legal cases that set a minimum pay for on-call workers and place limits on on-call scheduling have developed over the years.
When looking at positions that require workers to stay on-call, we suggest looking at state laws on minimum wage and employment.