Some companies and organizations have on-call duty requirements. (for example, doctors have on-call duties in the hospital they work). On-call means when an employee is not physically available for work, they should be prepared to work anytime they are called for work. These employees are bound to attend the to work once their employer calls them. In this case, the employees cannot be absent or out of the city. On-call employees have a specific time limit to consume to attend the workshop. Therefore, they should be somewhere close by. As mentioned above, on-call duties are available in organizations where the need of an employee is unpredictable. You might doubt how that can happen. But there are some situations that the employees don’t have any work to do, but they can’t say when they get another work to do. In emergencies, they should be available for work.
Doctors and nurses are the most common on-call employees we meet. But also there are other employees such as repair workers, electricians, software developers, hardware technicians, retail workers, fire brigade workers, etc. Under FLSA, on-call duties may or may not be considered as working hours. Depending on the criteria of the organization, it can differ. In most cases, the health staff such as doctors and nurses are considered for their working hours in on-call duties. However, some companies do not include on-call hours as normal working hours. Depending on this, the payments can differ.
How long are the on-call duties?
Because in many companies the usual working hours are 6-8 hours, the employees have to do on-call duties for 1-4 hours.
What if you don’t respond to the call during on-call hours?
This is a fact that can risk your job. In many companies, they have defined their on-call duty criteria in the employee handbook. Therefore, you are legally bound to work on-call hours if required. You can ignore the calls and engage in your activities during on-call hours. But this may harm your reputation as an employee. And also, you can be fired depending on the need. You should be responsible enough to answer the calls during your on-call hours. For example, imagine what situation would occur if you are a doctor if you don’t respond to the call. You can risk a patient’s life to death by ignoring the call. In such a case, you have an ethical responsibility to answer the call. Sometimes you may not get fire. But you may miss some promotions and salary increments due to this reason.
Do you need to be on call on your off days?
This depends on the employer you work with. Sometimes employees do not like it when the employer calls in off days and ask unimportant questions regarding the work. This is reasonable. But there is no rule that the employer cannot call you on the off days regarding work matters. It is up to the employer to determine your days off and vacations. And the employer has the freedom to contact his employees during their off days and engage them with some work.
But there are several conditions.
- If he is an hourly paid employee, he must be paid for the time he spends on the call. For example, if the employee spends an hour on the phone regarding the work, he should be paid for that hour.
- If the employer interrupted you and cause any loss with what you have planned to do in your days off, the employer should reimburse your loss. For example, if you have planned to watch a soccer match on the day off and you have already bought tickets, your employer must reimburse that money for the interruption and not letting you engage in that.
- If the employee is a salaried one and is called for a few hours of work during his vacation, he should be paid for the day. This doesn’t count for the normal weekends though.
No on-call hours count for the payments?
If you require your employees to be present when they are not working, do you have to pay them? It is ethical to pay the on-call employees depending on a few reasons. Because if you do not pay your on-call employees, you are violating FLSA hours worked.
What is FLSA?
It is the abbreviation used for the Fair Labour Standard Act. This is the implemented act for the rules and regulations about on-call duties. This act does not contain an exact rule to consider the on-call hours as working hours. Depending on the organization, this can vary. If any organization considers on-call hours as working hours, they pay the employees for on-call hours. If on-call hours are not considered working hours in a company, the employees do not get paid unless they don’t receive work during that time. But if they are called for emergency work in the on-call time, they must be paid for it. However, FLSA is only relevant for non-exempt employees. Exempt employees are not paid for on-call duties. There can be many factors to consider whether to pay or not.
When should you provide on-call payments?
You must pay the on-call employees for the hours they have worked according to federal on-call pay law. This depends on a few factors such as the number of hours worked, time of engagement, the finish of the work, etc. Often the FLSA is considered by a lot of employers regarding the on-call duties. Anyway, the department of labor in the united states has implemented general rules and regulations regarding the o call payments. On-call working laws depend on whether the employee is restricted or not. If the employee is restricted from being unavailable, they must be paid for on-call hours. Their on-call time is generally considered as working hours. If you haven’t restricted the employee to be available in the on-call time, there’s no rule for you to pay the employee for the waiting time. this depends on the type of job and the criteria of the company.
On what factors do on-call payments depend?
On the call, payment depends on two main factors.
Location of the employee
Employee’s ability to engage in the work
In the case of location, it further depends on two factors. They are whether the employee needs to remain somewhere close by in case they get a call for work or if the employee can travel anywhere in the on-call time duration. If the employee needs to remain close by, that on-call time must be taken as working hours. If any company restricts its employees to remain close during on-call times, those hours should be considered working hours. They should receive a fixed payment for on-call hours as well. If the employee can go anywhere while on call, they are not restricted by the company. In this scenario, an employer is not bound to pay for those on-call hours by considering the working hours. It is in the employer’s hands. In this case, employees have the right to engage in their activities during on-call times. But this also has a few conditions.
- The employee is allowed to use their on-call time to engage in their activities.
- How often do the employers call employees for work in their on-call hours?
- After calling for work, how long is the employee allowed to take to come back to work?
If the employee is allowed to engage in their activities during on-call times, the employer doesn’t have to pay them for those hours. But if the employee is called for work, the employer should pay him for those times. In other words, if the task is completed over the phone, the employer must pay the employee for the time duration of the call. For example: If the employee spends his four hours on-call time at a party, and if he gets a call for 30 minutes’ work by the office, the employer should pay him for the 30 minutes. But he shouldn’t be paid for the rest of the 3 and a half hours. On the other hand, if the employee is restricted from engaging in their activities during the on-call times, the employer should probably pay him for those hours. For example: If the employee has 4 on-call hours, and if he engages in shopping and the employer calls him for work, he should be paid. If he cannot go back to his activity but frequently be present in the office, the employer should pay him an on-call compensation.
The other factor is how often the employer calls the employee for work. If the work is over the phone, the employer must provide compensation for the employee for the hours he spent on the phone. On the other hand, if the employee has to present physically for work, the hours he had to respond to the calls and come to the office should be paid. The next factor is the time taken by the employee to attend the workshop. If the employee is restricted to attend the workshop by a pre-defined period, he should be paid for travel time. But if the employee is not restricted about reaching, he should not be paid for the time of travel. But definitely, he should be paid for the time he spends on the work during on-call hours.
Further Considerations for On-Call Payments
As mentioned above, there are several factors that the payments depend on. If an employer is in doubt whether to pay his employee or not during the on all hours, these are some questions you can sort out.
- Is the worker an exempt or nonexempt employee in the company?
- What are the criteria defined in the employee handbook?
- Is the employee restricted or not?
- Is the employee required to stay close by or in the company premises during his on-call hours?
- What is the state law about on-call payments?
Even if you can not sort out the decision whether to pay an employee for their on-call hours or not, don’t hesitate to consult a small business lawyer from the website of the department of labor. https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/flsa/hoursworked/screenEr80.asp
Laws and Policies Regarding On-Call Duties
As mentioned above, FLSA (Fair Labor Standard Act) is commonly used to define the rules applied for on-call duties in many organizations. The federal on-call laws are also implemented for the better regulation of on-call employees. In addition to these two, other laws are bound with on-call duties. For example, California on-call laws allow the employees to call their employers and ask about the available work on-call hours. California on-call law is considered more employee-friendly than federal on-call law. The laws can be differing from one state to another. And also, it’s in the hands of employers to decide whether to pay or not if the employees are not restricted, as stated above.
But it’s an ethic to include the on-call rules and criteria in the company employee handbooks for legal benefits.
If the employee or the employer violates on-call duties, the other party can take the necessary actions towards it. But in the employee handbook, the employer must indicate clearly what set of rules applied within the company. If an employer or an employee violates the on-call rules, the other party can consult a small business lawyer from the department of labor and ask the necessary actions that must be taken against them. Of course, if you are in another country than the United States, your laws can be different. Some countries even do not have laws or regulations regarding on-call duties. In that case, the employees are paid according to the policies of the specific companies.