How To Know When On-Call Employees Should Be Paid

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On-call employees are a big benefit to many companies. They help ensure that the business is covered while keeping costs down. On-call employees generally cost little to nothing. But how much exactly should they be paid? The answer is, it depends.

While the employee is on call and not working is he able to use his time as he sees fit? If not, then the on-call time should be compensable. If the answer is yes, if employees are generally free to come and go on their on-call time, then they are not considered to be on duty and only need to be paid for the time actually spent working. You can be pretty sure that your on-call employee should be paid if they:

  • Are limited geographically – If being on-call requires the employee to be strictly limited in his geographic freedom – meaning that he cannot go to the store or out to lunch – then it’s compensable. It’s hard to say exactly how close an employee should have to be to the work site. But requiring them to stay within a five-minute drive would almost always require they be paid for their time.
  • Must stay inside one building – When an employee is required to stay in the same place – whether at a work site or at home – the employee should almost definitely be paid.
  • Wear a uniform – If an employee has to wear a uniform, their on-call time is clearly restricted. They should be paid for their time on call.
  • Must respond quickly to a call – If an employee must respond to a call from work quickly, say immediately or within 10 or 15 minutes, a court might rule that this is overly restrictive and the employee should be paid.
  • Frequently end up working while on call – If an employee occasionally gets a call, it is clear that they are truly on-call but if they get calls nearly every on-call shift or many during one-on call shift, they are not just on-call they are on duty and should be paid.

If you have an account with Timesheets.com, you can set up a special Account Code for employees who work on call shifts and set a special pay rate too. This way, at the end of a pay period, you won’t have to add up pay rates for regular work and pay rates for on call work; the system will do it for you.

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