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Should You Be Paid For Being On Call?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the then-i-want-hazard-pay dept.

The Almighty Buck 735

theodp writes "Fortune's Dear Annie takes on the case of poor Dazed and Confused, an independent webmaster who's expected to be on call for his client at all hours of the day and night, but doesn't get paid for being on call, only for the 40 hours a week that he's in the office. Surprisingly, Annie throws cold water on the contractor's dreams of paid OT, citing these pearls of wisdom from an attorney who's apparently never had the 'privilege' of being a techie on call: 'Many companies see the on-call issue as analogous to a fire fighter's job. Most of the time, a fire fighter is off-duty but on call, hanging around the firehouse, cooking, sleeping, or whatever. What that person really gets paid for is the relatively small, but crucial, amount of time he spends walking into a burning building with an ax. A webmaster, likewise, has slow times and busy times.'" What on call policies are you used to working with and how should it work in an ideal world?

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Well, then... (5, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273182)

Here's the way I see it. Mr. Lawyer, you want to pay for support 40 hours a week? I'll give you a cellphone number I'll answer 40 hours a week.

It is ridiculous to presume that offering the opportunity to interrupt one's life at any time, any place, with an overriding obligation to deal with your problems, has no value.

Oh, you want the 168 hour phone number? Well, that's gonna cost ya...

Re:Well, then... (2, Insightful)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273230)

Oh, you want the 168 hour phone number? Well, that's gonna cost ya...

... Your job.

Re:Well, then... (4, Insightful)

MrMr (219533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273292)

I don't understand that. If he's an independent webmaster it will cost him a non-paying customer, the kind you really can do without.
If he is on the pay-roll he should probably join a union.

Re:Well, then... (3, Insightful)

Delwin (599872) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273324)

Have you ever heard of a webmaster union, or for that matter any IT/programming union?

I haven't.

Re:Well, then... (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273382)

I haven't either. Is there a good reason why we don't have one though?

Re:Well, then... (3, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273524)

From my experience with unions, yea there are good reasons not to have an IT union.

Suppress wages, defend the inept, petty crap during "bargaining" years, strong arming members, and take money away for political purposes.

I was in a couple unions, two for IT in the public sector, I'm not a fan.

Re:Well, then... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273616)

You hear that? That loud sucking sound? It's the sound of an IT union driving the last of our jobs overseas at warp speed.

Re:Well, then... (4, Interesting)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273398)

In Denmark, the IT union is one of the stronger ones.

Re:Well, then... (2, Interesting)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273448)

I'm having trouble reconciling union with what i assume is an independent contractor.

Re:Well, then... (1)

AnotherShep (599837) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273496)

Yup. I'm in CUPE, and I'm a programmer. Just sayin', they do exist...

Re:Well, then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273508)

Unionized IT shops definitely exist. My current company's outsourcing line of business has an entire delivery center made up of unionized IT employees in all disciplines. These staff were transitioned when the local utility outsourced their IT departments to us.

As a result of the original agreement we have limited ability to shed them for existing client work, and they are some of the highest paid IT labour I've ever encountered...and that does not necessarily equates to improved service quality or productivity.

Re:Well, then... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273470)

If he's on the payroll, then I'm sure labor laws in his jurisdiction will very likely require that he be paid a certain amount per hour for being on call.

If this is a contracted position, well, he signed a shitty contract.

Re:Well, then... (1)

KDEnut (1673932) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273588)

I wouldn't be surprised at all if his wage doesn't already have his on-call time figured in. ie: his hourly rate is actually $2-$3 less, the difference is his on-call bonus being merged in.

Re:Well, then... (4, Insightful)

Deflagro (187160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273256)

Right, I'm sure Mr Lawyer wouldn't mind being on retainer for free either. We'll call you when we need you and pay you on the go.

Firefighters get benefits though in that they are provided food and shelter at no cost and can practically live at the firehouse, albeit not something everyone would love to do :P

I think if you expect someone to be at your every beck-and-call, then you need to pay them. At least give them some reason to care.

Re:Well, then... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273422)

We'll call you when we need you and pay you on the go.

That's exactly how Mr. Lawyer IS paid. He's probably wondering why Mr. Webmaster deserves special treatment.

Re:Well, then... (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273482)

And, Mr. Lawyer, you can only bill 40hr/wk, max.

Re:Well, then... (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273526)

Mr. Lawyer probably isn't expected to respond immediately to calls that come in between 11 PM and 5 AM though.

Re:Well, then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273662)

Firefighters also work 48-72 hours on call, then get a day or two off. This guy is expect to be on call 24/7/365... No thanks.

I am married (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273274)

You insensitive clod!

Re:Well, then... (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273280)

You give them your cell number? Work can have my cell number when they start paying the bill.

Re:Well, then... (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273378)

If you know that being on call is a requirement of the job, then you should demand a higher base salary to begin with.

Re:Well, then... (1)

sigmabody (1099541) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273612)

I had a previous employer who gave me a pager so that I could be "on call" when I wasn't in the office; I left it at the office. Unless being on-call outside of work times is part of my employment agreement (ie: discussed and negotiated before I take the job), it's not something I feel obligated to be/do.

That being said, I have occasionally worked off-hours for employers I liked in response to specific situations, and I wouldn't recommend my approach if you're at all insecure in your job and/or employment prospects. For me, though, I agree with the parent post: I'd be happy to be available 24/7 for the right price, but that's significantly higher than my 40-50/week price...

Should I? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273218)

Should I? Yes. Am I? No.

An artifact of the 90s (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273228)

Lots of companies used to give pay or comp time in exchange for on call duty, back in the days when the It staff was considered an asset rather than an expense. Those days are over.

salary sucks (2, Interesting)

BosHaus (629060) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273242)

Back when I was hourly, I got paid 2hrs for being on call for the weekend, plus any time spent working. Now that I'm salary, they can abuse me all weekend for free.

Of course you should be paid (5, Informative)

Aliencow (653119) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273244)

You're basically hooked to a pager, which means you need to be near a phone, and usually near a computer with internet connectivity.

I don't work in operations, but everyone in decent places I've worked at did get paid around 3hours of salary per 24hours of wearing the pager. Then it was a minimum of 1 hour per "call" (more like issue, as it could involve multiple calls) except for the first one of the day which was included in the 3hours.

That meant that in a typical week you'd get paid for (24*7)-40 hours of "pager duty", which amounted to 16 hours of salary, so 2 days extra. That's pretty good, assuming you're on a decent rotation and don't have to be THE guy doing it every single week.

Re:Of course you should be paid (1)

ryanov (193048) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273344)

Thanks for the information. I didn't ask the original question, but I am currently on call for free and am on the board of the union that is attempting to change that. We've been having a rough time with proposals considering most of us are salaried. Any sort of creative ideas that don't involve getting officially paid for the hours are interesting to read.

Re:Of course you should be paid (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273530)

I also think my job's system isn't that bad: I'm salaried, for which they basically expect 80 hours of work every two weeks. Unless there is a reason otherwise, that should be during standard work days. But if I'm on call and have to work during non-standard hours, those hours count just as the rest. Quite often after an on-call week I've been able to take a half-day or more off, because I've already worked the hours.

Re:Of course you should be paid (1)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273546)

My previous two employers paid a stipend of a set amount to salaried employees who were on call. One place did it quarterly, the other bi-monthly with the regular pay check cycle. My current employer has an "unofficial" comp-time policy for on-call. But unlike the other two, also has a corporate bonus program, for which things like being on pager duty are supposed to be taken into consideration.

Re:Of course you should be paid (1)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273538)

When I was on call I got $50.00 just to answer the phone. Then I got an hourly rate to work the issue.

No calls, no money. Got 3 calls that each took a hour. I made $150 + 3 hours.

Not bloody likely! (1)

zoloto (586738) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273252)

I get paid for the time I work, on an hourly basis. 5 minutes over the hour? Well that's one hour I bill for, just like you mr lawyer.

Re:Not bloody likely! (2, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273460)

Well that's one hour I bill for, just like you mr lawyer.

Lawyers generally bill in 6 to 15 minute increments. They're not allowed to round up.

ahhh lawyers.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273260)

where labour laws apply to everyone but them.

so, question for the lawyer: you're called by a client at 0200 am regarding a contract dispute in southeast asia; at what rate do you bill them? hourly? or do you ignore the phone and get back to them in the morning because it just wasn't 'critical' to you?

There seems to be some confusion here... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273262)

Obviously, with all else equal, the guy who is 40 hours + on call needs to be paid more than the guy who is 40 hours only, unless we want to go back to the good old days of indentured servitude or something.

However, it doesn't really much matter exactly how that extra money is delivered. It could be that "The job description of 'Job A' includes being on call, which is why people who do it earn a hefty salary" or it could be "'Job B' is 9 to 5; and time on call is X dollars/hour outside of that". That seems to be the point of confusion.

Re:There seems to be some confusion here... (1)

Caue (909322) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273420)

exacly. if the job description includes being on call, there is your payment. Maybe the whole point is webmasters don't earn a nice paycheck anymore. Well, oh well, that's a entire new world of discussion.

Of course (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273264)

We have many jobs on then the guy spends many time on "standby", but is crucial on problems without date or time to occur. Police, firemen, the army, civil defense (I work for then), etc etc.. And keep the good work job and stay sharp, guys.

Re:Of course (1)

stiggle (649614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273656)

That standby time is taken up with training, skills updating, paperwork, education, etc.

Your local firecrew will be doing educational trips to schools, installing smoke detectors in public & low-cost housing, training on new equipment, reading up and practacing on new procedures. Its not all sitting in the firehouse watching DVDs and sleeping.

Dear Mister Lawyer.... STFU... Thanks. (2, Insightful)

theNetImp (190602) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273268)

As someone who is a web developer/webmaster web-whatever-you-want-to-call-it. At most of my jobs I spend most of my 40 hours a week busy. Doing work. When I have done systems administration, it's been the same thing. I am 90% busy those 40 hours per week. There are VERY little slow periods, unlike a Fire fighter (not to dis fire fighters) who spend most of their day waiting to be called to work. If I work 40hrs during the week, and then get called in 3-4 nights because something is acting up, in a way that wasn't expected, I should get paid for being on call, or the employer should wait until I am in during the morning. Mister Lawyer. Until you are in my shoes, please politely STFU.... Thanks

Personally I believe it depends upon if you're... (1)

Assmasher (456699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273272)

...salaried or not.

If you are salaried, you accepted a position for fixed pay, fixed pay for all the responsibilities of that position (usually.) If you're hourly, you should be paid for the time you're in action during your on call period. If being 'on call' is seriously intrusive to your everyday life then you should discuss, before accepting the position, whether or not that results in some form of recompense (monetary or otherwise.)

Presuming he/she is salaried, you can't complain about it after accepting the position. You can attempt to re-negotiate your employment contract or quit.

Re:Personally I believe it depends upon if you're. (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273370)

...and that's why you'll be hard pressed to find many technical jobs that aren't salaried. They are out there, but they're rare as hens' teeth. Also, your theory doesn't hold true if someone is hired for one salaried position, but then promoted to a different position with on-call responsibilities (which happened in my case).

Re:Personally I believe it depends upon if you're. (2, Interesting)

Assmasher (456699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273534)

It holds true even if you're simply given the added responsibility without a change of position. Don't like your position at your company? Renegotiate or leave. You're not entitled to some sort of 'automatic pay' increase just for being on call.

I'm the CTO of a small software company. My board can, and often does, call me at all hours of the day and night. I find myself spending quite a few Sundays or Saturday nights flying out early to meet with the board prior to important 3rd party meetings, I don't get paid extra for this, but I certainly considered this possibility before accepting the position and I made sure that my compensation package reflected these 'hardships.'

In addition, as you've pointed out above, specific types of positions tend to come with 'on call' responsibilities, it is unusual for someone to suddenly get saddled with the expecatation that they should be 'on call' outside normal business hours (although it does happen, and has happened to me.)

It, as usual, comes down to the simple fact that when you negotiate a salary you need to base your acceptance upon the possibilities not just what's down on the job description because those job descriptions are rarely written by people who know what they're talking about (sadly.)

Where I work... (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273282)

On call is done in week long shifts. Basically from monday at 8:30am until the next monday at 8:30am, you are on call. After that, it switches to the next technician in the rotation, and so on. During that week you put in your regular hours (8:30-5:30) but you're also expected to handle customer calls that may come in in the evening/early morning. Afterwards, you are compensated either $150, or a day of comp time that can be used like a personal day whenever you choose (some blackouts). Its not bad, its not great, but it works pretty well. Going to be on call next week actually, and since most of the end of this month is blacked out, I'll be enjoying the 150$ to help buy xmas gifts.

NOT GONNA DO IT! (4, Insightful)

iplayfast (166447) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273284)

I tried this once, but I hated being on a leash so much that I quickly found another job. It just wasn't worth my sanity.

TFA said it all. (1, Redundant)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273296)

Basically, it's what you agree to. If you're negotiating for a job that has you on call then bring it up before you're hired or contracted.

Geeze, it's not rocket science.

Don't like being on call? Quit. In this economy it'll be real easy to replace you - good luck finding another job, though.

A contractor? (3, Insightful)

Greg_D (138979) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273298)

You want the opportunity to use my services at your convenience? Pay me a retainer equal to X hours a month. I work any more than X, you pay me an hourly rate. I work less than X, you still owe me for those hours.

Nurses Do (0, Offtopic)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273302)

I can speak from second-hand experience (my mom is a nurse) that nurses get paid when they are "on call", even if they are never called in. This was back in the 90's though.

Re:Nurses Do (1)

rattaroaz (1491445) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273492)

True. Unfortunately, I am a physician. And doctors do not get paid on call. The physician model is that you HAVE to take call. If you don't get called, you get the pleasure of carrying the pager for free. If you get called, you work for free. If you go in to see a patient, you get paid as if you saw them during regular hours. So, they get paid for what they do (sometimes, depending upon the insurance), but not for being on call.

hospital model... (5, Insightful)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273304)

Well, the firefighter mentioned is flawed - he is *at work* waiting for a call to come in. On call is not at work, but available should the shit hit the fan.

The hospitals I worked in, the staff that were on call (CAT scan techs, nuke med techs, OR nurses, recovery room nurses, dialysis folks) were paid $1 or $2 per hour just for carrying the beeper. Should they get called in, they were guaranteed 2 hours of pay, but they had to stay waiting for something to do for that whole time (a CT tech could come in and scan someone in 10 min - but they then had to hang out and wait for the extra hour and 50 minutes). This pay was at regular pay rates/levels, so night shift differential or holiday differential kicked in, as would over time if their total for the pay week was over 40 hours.

So... followign this, our poor over worked web master would be paid say $1/hr for totin his beeper or whatever. If he gets called, he comes in and fixes the issue, gets a minimum of 2 hours of work at his hourly rate, and probably gets over time. Sounds good. In reality, he's probably a salaried employee, so over time is out the window, and if he's lucky he may be allowed to leave 15 minutes early on Friday to make up for it.

Re:hospital model... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273440)

I work at a relatively small IT dept. 3 people including the manager supporting a company of 100 people. We all have a smartphone of various flavors and have an unwritten policy that if you come in outside of the work week, whether it's for an thirty minutes or six get a paid day off.

Albeit, I rarely come in outside of the work week but when I do it doesn't hang over my head like I'm losing precious free time. It feels more like I'm profiting.

Firefighting (5, Informative)

tumnasgt (1350615) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273322)

Firefighters) run shifts, they are only ever on call when they are at the station, which they have two 12 hour day shifts, two 12 hour night shifts, and then 4 days off. Pretty fair working conditions if you ask me. No 40 hours in at the station, and then an expectation that they will get up at 3 o'clock in the morning cos Mrs Jones' left a candle burning and the cat knocked it over. Maybe Mr Lawyer need's to check who he is comparing with before he accidentally agrees that 24/7 is unfair.

Re:Firefighting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273554)

If you don't think firefighters can be on call when they are not in the station, you don't know many firefighters.

Re:Firefighting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273646)

I know of a large-ish department in New England with professional (and unionized) firefighters, whose schedule is two 10 hour days (for example, Monday and Tuesday), followed by two 14 hour evenings (Wednesday and Thursdays), followed by four days off, but on the first two of the days off (Friday and Saturday), they are on call _voluntarily_ and get first crack at being coming in on a per-incident basis with a minimum of two hours' pay at overtime (1.5X) rate. This way, those who want to pick up a few extra bucks can do so, and those who had a big outing with the family planned, or whatever, can do so as well. (Yes, there ARE seven days in a week, so eventually each of the four "shifts" gets a four day weekend anyway). And no, they don't just sit around the station playing cards - they have equipment maintenance to do, as well as various training activities, etc.

Back in the late 80's and early 90's, DEC used to pay their on-call (beepered) field service techs one hour's pay for each 8 hour shift they were on call, with a two hour minimum if they got called in for a problem (and at OT rate, probably). I don't know if that survived the Compaq debacle, or what HP's current policies are, however.

I 3 My Job (1)

illumin8 (148082) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273330)

My company has a great on-call system. You're on call 1 out of 8 weeks, and get paid $50 a day to carry the pager, which really means "forward SMS monitoring messages to your cellphone." It's also nice because we run Linux so our systems rarely have issues. It's basically like getting an extra $350 every other month for nothing.

Re:I 3 My Job (1)

AnotherShep (599837) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273618)

"Running Linux" isn't necessarily the reason. It's most likely that your system is properly set up. I used to work as a developer at a Linux shop that went cheap on everything, and DAMN was that a lot of coming in in the evenings.

Paid call (2, Informative)

dr_strang (32799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273332)

My wife is an OR (operating room) nurse who is paid to be on call, which I would consider to be roughly analogous to this topic. However, there are a couple of major differences:

1. She has to go to a specific location (the hospital) when called in. It's not like she can do her job from home.
2. She's paid hourly.
3. Usually if she gets called in, someone is dying. I would rarely, if ever, classify an IT emergency anywhere near as important as that.

If it is not worth anything, it is worthless, righ (1)

Alpha77 (168968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273336)

My company pays 10% of the usual hourly wage for everyone who is on call. When a call comes in, the rate jumps to the usual hourly rate. If this makes you work more hours than agreed upon in your contract, an overtime percentage is added.

Well... (1)

bytethese (1372715) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273346)

As a person who works closely with on call groups but not on call himself, I can say that were I tasked to now be on call, I would expect compensation as such. We pay our employees a normal wage but if they work a later shift, they get a "travel allowance" that most just use as additional income. The federal government also gives a bump in pay adjustment to jobs who work to the tune of 50hrs instead of 40hrs.

Meaning if you go from 40hrs to 40hrs + "We can call if we need you" you should then therefore be given a higher overall wage to compensate your time focused on work.

No way. (1)

Buelldozer (713671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273360)

Expected on call 24 x 7 without being paid for it? I don't think so. I value my free time too much for that. How can you ever go fishing, hunting, camping, or be at a movie if you're expected to answer the phone?

The firefighter is not really paid for that small but crucial amount of time that they are in action. They are paid for the time that they're hanging around the station house unable to do anything BUT respond to fires.

Annie has this one wrong, very wrong

And what does the law say? (1)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273366)

Well, the government doesn't describe it as eligible for overtime, at least for police and dental assistant examples. I think it boils down to you get everything you can negotiate for.

F-0083-06-01, 12/11/97,
    * Call-back time
        * Electronic devices
        * On-call duty
        * Pager
        * > Standby time

        Time in on-call status is not hours of work under FLSA

redirection (1)

gooman (709147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273392)

A quick remote login to redirect to a static "We are experiencing technical difficulties, please stand by" page. Then fix it on the next work day.

Or an agreement for comp-time or $xxx.xx for work outside of normal work hours.

Cost of always being on call (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273400)

I would say there is a mental tax that is paid with the notion of always being on-call. That tax must come at some cost in salary to the worker. Maybe a 40hr/week salary plus 10% for always being on-call.

The ability to drop what you are doing to help someone that occurs outside of a small regular interval is something that is not easy to do mentally and its logical that such a requirement would afford extra cost in salary.

The point is that your time is not your own (4, Insightful)

Fished (574624) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273402)

The problem is that, when you're "on call", your time is not your own. You're expected to be ready and able to drop everything at a moments notice and go to work, immediately. Furthermore, you can be limited as to where you can go, particularly in areas with poor cell phone coverage. Most employers I've worked with have given a day of "comp" time in exchange for a week on-call, although they've sometimes been a bit sketchy on actually doing this and on how you should report it. To me, it should be official, recognized, and fully compensated--but often it just happens at manager's discretion.

Re:The point is that your time is not your own (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273574)

I have the unfortunate privilege of being on call.
I get paid a dollar amount for the day (roughly 1 hour's worth of pay). It's not worth it because we get stupid, retarded calls that should not go to us. It's front line tech support. This means we get customer service issues as well as legitimate tech issues. However, due to the way our business works, it can almost always wait until the next day because nothing would happen until then even if it did work.

Anyway, For me, my on call shift starts right when my work shift stops (8pm) and goes until 5am. It's miserable and every week I get it, I want to quit. The compensation is not worth it. Not even close. Triple the pay and I MIGHT consider it worth it but being on call is destructive to a work life balance and destructive to a healthy sleep cycle.

Thankfully, on call duty is rotated once a week between 12 people, so it doesn't happen very often.

Salary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273406)

Putting IT employees on salary is considered THE WAY to get around paying for on-call hours.

Personally, I expect some time away from the job. I don't answer my work cell phone, including emails, before 8am or after 6pm. I do listen to voicemail and monitor the email for a true emergency, but if it is not my definition of an emergency it can wait until Monday at 8am. If I get fired, so be it. I can find another job. I don't live to work, I work to live.

Fuck... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273408)

a BSD ;over other

I would only trade free on call time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273410)

For comp time during the work week/long weekends OR the potential work experience leading to something I could later do as a paid contractor.

Unpaid on-call time should only be used as a stepping stone for something better. If you don't see a better future with a company that may treat you better later or a potential bullet point on your resume, I would not do it.

As anon coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273412)

Radio engineer here.
I get paid OT for on call emergencies.
I'm salaried to take care of the rest of the deal.
Guess which bit Corporate is trying to take away?

Posted as anonymous coward for obvious reasons.

Firefighter Analogy is flawed. (3, Informative)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273426)

'Many companies see the on-call issue as analogous to a fire fighter's job. Most of the time, a fire fighter is off-duty but on call, hanging around the firehouse, cooking, sleeping, or whatever. What that person really gets paid for is the relatively small, but crucial, amount of time he spends walking into a burning building with an ax.

This is flawed, as in many fire departments or houses there are multiple crews. You've got 3 days 'in the house' then 3 days 'at home' followed by '4 days in the house' then 4 days 'at home.' When you're in the house, you're responsible for any and all calls that come in. So firefighters get paid for the time they are in the house. Just like most people are paid for the time they are in the office, but aren't paid for Saturdays and Sundays.

If he wants to correct the analogy, he should say that firefighters who are in the 'at home' phase, get called in, but don't get paid for it. They do get paid for it, just like Police Officers that work overtime or off-shift.

Contract or support agreement should specify (1)

jeffshoaf (611794) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273428)

Since he's an independant webmaster, he should have a contract or support agreement with his clients and all of that should be spelled out so that everyone knows what to expect - if the contract says he's available 40 hours a week within specific hours, then that's when he should be available. If his clients want more support than that, then the contract or agreement should specify what that additional support costs.

Support requirements really aren't given the priority they need... When my boss came to me to get my opinion on trying to commercialize some of the apps I had developed for internal use, my first question was "How are we going to provide support?" She didn't have an answer and the apps weren't commercialized.

He's not really "on call" (4, Informative)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273436)

I've done a lot of independant contractor work and I've hired dozens of contractors, so I'll put my two cents in.

As a independent contractor he gets to choose if he wants to work or not. If he wants to go out of town then go for it, but if they call and you're not available they're going to get someone else. You're not "on call", they just let you know "hey we have some work here if you want it, if not no problem".

Being an independant contracotr for a business just means you are someone they know with a particular skill and they will let you know when they need your expertise in the future. It's the job equivalent of "fuck buddy".

If he got paid for being "on call" as a independent contractor then we'd all have to pay plumbers, lawn mowing guy, electrician, mechanics, and all the other "use you when I need you" people in our lives for being "on call".

Spent 5 years not being paid for on call... (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273438)

...and it's just a company's way of being cheap. (They were charging clients for maintenance after all) When I'm on call at my current job I'm paid for it. Not a huge amount of money. Nothing that's going to make me rich, but it is some token compensation for the disruption to your life. Calls are infrequent, but I have to stay 15 minutes from my computer. If I am called and can fix it quickly I'm not paid anything above the on call rate. If it takes more than half an hour I get the usual overtime. It's a fair and reasonable compromise for staying 15 minutes from my computer. In theory I could be more mobile if I bought wireless broadband but as things stand it means I stay home when I'm on call.

What this Annie Fisher lady needs is someone calling her randomly 0-3 times a night for 2 weeks and being told she isn't allowed to go out. She'd soon change her tune.

I don't know how it works in the US, but here in Australia I believe (non-volunteer) fire fighters get paid to be at work regular hours. They aren't paid just for callouts, and they don't tend to "hang around the firestation" in their off duty hours. If US firefighters are only paid per fire that's not right.

Being on call, is being at work. (2, Informative)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273444)

If I'm at work I can't drink, can't go out of state, can't do anything outside of what my boss tells me I can do (basically).

If I'm no longer on the clock, I can do whatever I want (basically).

If I'm asked to be on call, I have to mold my "not on the clock" time to whatever my boss requires. I can't go out of state. I can't go to an amusement park with my kids. I can't go to a movie. Well, not unless I don't mind up and leaving to go home and sign on the laptop.

If your boss expects you to do x or y while you're not on the clock, you _are_ on the clock and deserve pay for it. The only time I allow my boss to dictate what I can and can't do is when he's paying me to allow him to boss me around.

Here is where the lawyer's analogy fails. (3, Insightful)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273446)

Firefighters aren't just "hanging around the firehouse" when they're not putting out fires. They spend that time maintaining equipment, training, performing building inspections, and a lot of other duties. I'm sure municipal policies vary, but I'm certain that many firefighters work regular shifts, and when an emergency call extends beyond their regular shift they are paid overtime.

The rules are simple (1)

Jailbrekr (73837) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273456)

- If you are in salary, then there is an expectation of being on call. How you work out the benefits of being on call (flex time, on call stipend) is between you and your employer.

- If you are a contractor, you are paid by the hour and all work, regardless of whether it is in the office or at home gets billed. you can maintain some flexibility with this (ie: don't charge travel time, charge at a reduced rate for things you are learning etc).

The employer can't have its cake and eat it too. There needs to be a middle ground. If they are refusing to budge, then find employment elsewhere. Its always easier to launch into a job job when you are already working so get your resume updated and start looking.

Quit or renegotiate. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273468)

> What on call policies are you used to...

Whatever is in the contract I agreed to.

> should it work in an ideal world?

I should be paid an infinite amount of money for doing nothing.

When my father was "on call" for Michigan Bell he got his regular wages for his regular 40 hours plus double-time for the time he put in when actually called out (but of course he had a contract).

That's how it is on my job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273476)

I have a 40-hr work week, and I'm also part of a rotation amount our team... everyone gets the support cellphone a night a week (once every 7 days)..

We are paid for this time, even if the phone does not ring at all, but since we can't just go to the movies or have the night off 50 miles away, but the hourly rate is different from our usual salary (about 1/5 of the value). However, if the phone *does* ring, we then get paid as usual overtime (which is anything from 1.0 to 2.5 times the hourly rate, depending on the time of the day and the day of the week), minus the on-call rate (since when we do answer the phone, we're not on standby anymore). The clocks starts when we answer the phone, and ends when the problem is solved, after I hang up the phone or hand it off to the next person, or whoever should be awaken by that problem.

Everything is computed in 5-minute increments, in case anyone is left wondering.

I feel, from my experience working on both sides of the table, that this is a fair way of getting reinbursed for our problems. The tricky part of this setup is knowing WHEN to ring the phone, so the standby sysop does not get woken up at 3AM because some random luser filled their shared storage quota with pron while working on the night shift.

Simple answer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273488)


I will not allow my home life to be subject to the whims of my employer. If that gets me fired from my job, so be it. Let them find someone desperate and/or spineless enough to trade away the entirety of their private life for a paycheck.

I understand completely about the need to support yourself and/or your family, and that doing so often requires great personal sacrifices. But at some point you have to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough. Personally, I would move in with my in-laws and ride a bicycle to work rather than allow an employer to dictate the terms of my private life. Some things are simply non-negotiable.

Wrong! (4, Informative)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273490)

Most of the time, a fire fighter is off-duty but on call,

100 percent of wrong. Firefighters are not off-duty when they are on-call. They are on-duty. When they go off-duty, they are no longer on call. Firefighters are typically on-duty for a 24-hour shift for two or three days a week. On their off days, they are not on call. Thus, most of the time, a firefighter is NOT on call.

nonsense and bullshit (2, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273498)

On-call duty is to be paid, end of story. Anyone trying to sell you otherwise is trying to save money at your expense.

That said, of course it isn't paid at the same rate as a regular work hour. After all, you can spend it dozing, surfing the web for porn, fighting with your loved one or going shopping.

The alternative for the company to having someone on call is to have someone there, on the clock. Obviously, that's a lot more expensive. Since they're a company and trying to make a profit, they'll try to get things as cheaply as possible, and free if at all possible. That doesn't mean you have to give it to them for free. Next they'll be asking for free overtime, and then if you'd mind not being paid at all.

Really, I'm not being sarcastic. They are essentially asking you to work for nothing. It's not much work (carrying a cell phone and picking it up if it rings), but it's work.

And don't let them fool you with examples of other jobs. There are some jobs where being on call is so standard that it's figured into the regular salary. That doesn't mean it's free, it's just not explicitly listed on the paycheck. And of course firemen get paid for the time they're waiting for an emergency. After all, that's why we have professional firefighters - to have someone ready to come at a moments notice. And if you check their contracts, they certainly don't say "a work week consists of 3,5 hours inside burning buildings and 1,5 hours rescuing lost cats", but much more likely something like "a work week consists of 40 hours".

Independent Contractor has Expectations Issues (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273500)

1. She's an independent webmaster.

That means she ultimately accepts the billing rates and service conditions.

If you want to be a cowboy webmaster, part of your burden/joy is defining the scope of work and setting a price for that scope of work.

There are plenty of customers willing to haggle to the last dollar, be eternally late paying only after many calls trying to get your AR current and demanding services that aren't explicitly spelled-out as 'free.' In order not to feel exploited, the cowboy webmaster needs to better manage her expectations and the client's expectations. I'm not saying 'suck it up' or 'screw the customer.'

This is an opportunity for the webmaster to work out some service-level tiers and related pricing. She'll have to take her work up a notch when she's servicing the customer, but figure out what that looks like in the form of an SLA. If she doesn't want to do this, then maybe being a cowboy webmaster isn't right for her.

Depends on your contract... (1)

jackhererUK (992339) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273504)

... and the terms you agreed to when you took the job. The usual deal is that being on call is covered by your salary but if you actually get called out you get more paid for it, usually a standard fee per call rather than an hourly rate. There is usually an on call rota as well so you are not on call 24/7.

Law varies from state to state (2, Insightful)

Archfeld (6757) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273516)

But in California I was always payed 2 hours for responding to a page, just carrying the pager was considered a 'better' alternative to requiring after-hours onsite staff. This was a large financial institution, and I was a Unix Systems Engineer, one among 8 or 10. Once I moved to a smaller venue, ie development lab and system support, the pager time dramatically decreased and was swapped with comp time as it arose. I don't think you are going to get payed up front for carrying the pager but you DO have a right to get payed if a response is required, and if you are required to remain within a certain distance from home or work you might have a valid issue as well. []

$0.50/hour (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273520)

Where I work, we get $0.50/hour for being on-call. We get paid no extra for actually getting called. So I could end up driving into work at 3am and spending the next eight hours there, all at a third-world pay rate. It's legal to pay us less than minimum wage because we are "exempt," whatever that means. Sounds like some bullshit.

Yes, I'm looking for a better job.

Already on call (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273528)

You're not already being paid for being on call?

Bullshit (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273544)

A webmaster, likewise, has slow times and busy times.

Bullshit. Any tech employee will have busy times and OH SHIT times.

Too many people, not enough jobs (1)

Paktu (1103861) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273550)

In the current economy, few companies are willing to pay IT employees for being on call while many IT employees are happy just to have a job and will bend over and spread their legs for the company. This is just an unfortunate consequence of there being too many people and not enough jobs.

Big Blue (1)

greed (112493) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273566)

I worked at Big Blue in the 90s, and they had a fixed rate per "shift" for being on-call, they called it "standby". Though, at the time, I was the first one in the particular office who said, "How much do I get?" when asked to carry a pager.

This money was very, very appealing right out of University. Six years later, since the rate is independent of your salary (or even salary band or rank... actually or even inflation), it didn't seem quite so impressive.

An "on-call" shift cannot be a shift where you are otherwise expected to be in the office. (Or working normally, given the "flexiplace" work at home plan.) Should you actually get called, then you bill time worked, in addition to the standby pay for that shift. Compensation rates follow the normal overtime rules for your jurisdiction. (Time-and-a-half, with a four hour "deductible" for Ontario. So your first four hours of overtime aren't paid.)

My PERSONAL rule is, as long as I have to worry about the company needing me, they need to be paying something. Like if I can't go out Friday night and get drunk, they need to be paying. (Normally, I'd expect being sober by Monday morning is no problem. Being sober for an emergency page at 1 AM Saturday morning.... not so easy.)

Or if it interferes with vacation plans or anything like that. Or even being able to go see a movie.

The workman is worth his hire (2, Informative)

BabaChazz (917957) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273572)

Rule is, you want work, you pay for it.

Way I see it, I'll take the pager and be on call, but the rule is, as I am a contractor, you pay standard-with-full-access rates, minimum 2-hour callout, every time that sucker goes off outside times I'm at the office. (You're paying already when I am at the office.) I bump my standard rates a bit to cover the possibility of interruption, if you want me to be available at any time. If I were an employee, any time that sucker goes off outside office hours, local labor laws say you have to pay me overtime, and a minimum of four hours if I get called into the office. I'd be willing to drop that to a minimum two hours of double time, from four of time and a half.

The fireman idea is flawed, because it is, in fact, not an on-call situation. You are paid for the time that you are on call, but you are actually in the fire hall while you are on call. Your shift ends, you close the door behind you, and nominally you are done. You don't have to worry about being waked up for an emergency call out, when you're off duty. It's much closer to the situation of a volunteer firefighter, who is on call 24/7 because there is nobody else and who is doing it basically out of altruism. Because of its volunteer nature, that doesn't apply either; you're not volunteering at your job.

The Attorney has it wrong (1)

headhot (137860) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273582)

A fireman has slow times and busy times, he is not working 9-5 and then on call, he's just on call.

A web master has an 8 hour a day busy time, and then an on call time. Every job that I have worked in the tech sector or have had working people for me who were not salaried had on call pay.

They had a bonus for just being on call, and then where paid when they were actual called with some kind of minimum, even if the call took 5 minutes the pay was for 2 hours.

Depends on how the employer values downtime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273584)

If it's important enough to wake me up in the middle of the night or keep me away from my family during dinner, it should be important enough to pay for.
If my employer doesn't value my time away from work enough to compensate me, it can wait until morning.

I know the economy is the way it is, and it rough to take a principled stand, but nothing lasts forever. Besides, if your employer wants you to work for free, they are already giving you a not so subtle hint about how much they value you.

Most every comment I've read is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273586)

It really depends on the laws of your state. People talk about salaried and hourly but you really need to look at if the position is exempt or non-exempt. Plus let's not forget that many, MANY techies have successfully sued for unpaid overtime even though they were technically "salaried" (example: Electronics Arts programmers. Currently webmasters at Wells Fargo are starting a class action suit, which I am a plaintiff in, regarding unpaid overtime). Now if you're a contractor and you're letting the customer dictate this to you, then you need to decide how important (i.e. well paying) a customer they are. But if you are an employee, if you're non-exempt (hourly) then they are likely violating state labor laws by not paying overtime for any hours worked past your normal 40 per week. And if you are exempt then it should be looked at if the position SHOULD be exempt based upon your state labor laws (in IL the amount of autonomy and decision making involved in the job matters in this regard). Also to take into account is if the position does basically the same work as an hourly position. These laws are in place so businesses can't take hourly employees, say "you're exempt now", and not pay the OT work. I would get in touch with your state labor organization and find out how the laws apply to you. BTW, in my current position, we are paid as described above. Despite being exempt, we are paid $2 an hour for carrying a pager, and 1.5x for any hours spent working while "on call"

On call (1)

pluther (647209) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273598)

I'm a contractor, so I've worked for many different companies, 3-6 months at a time. For the last several years I've made it clear, during the initial interview, that I'm not on call 24/7.

That said, the occasional night or weekend work is an expected part of our industry, and sometimes they need people to cover that time. I also make clear that I understand that and will work with it.

My current company has no official on-call policy for my position, but the way it works out, if they call me when I'm not in the office, I'll answer if I'm not doing anything else, or return their calls when it's convenient for me. (I'm a pretty typical nerd, so this works out to most of the time.) If they do answer, I charge them for the time I actually spend working, a minimum of one hour.

If they want me standing by at night or over a weekend, that means I can't go out of town, or even out of the house for long. I'm not visiting friends, and I'm not running a D&D game. Since I've given up plans I may have, they're paying me for that time, even if all I'm doing is sitting around at home playing video games, listening for the phone, and occasionally checking email.

These times need to be agreed to ahead of time, and it won't be every weekend. In such cases, I usually charge them normal rates for about half the hours I'm on call, or all of the hours if I'm actually working the majority of that time. (If I'm sleeping, I'll only charge anything if they actually do call.)

So far, as long as I've stated what I expect up front, I've not had any complaints.

Like it does in New Zealand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30273614)

Like it does in NZ:

Your company cannot *oblige* you to do overtime. They can request it, and would be required to pay you overtime for those periods during which you are on call.

It doesn't really matter whether you're working or not: if they want you to be available, they pay you for the time you make available.

You don't have to agree, and they can get in a world of hurt if they try to pressure or force you.

OnCall Duty (1)

Rycross (836649) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273620)

I work at a company where we have on-call rotations, with pager and everything. It was made explicitly clear during the interview and hiring process that this would be expected of me, and that I should consider my salary as reflecting this responsibility. Given that the salary was a good deal higher than typical jobs in the area, and expectations were stated up-front, I felt that this was fair.

If you're an independent contractor, then you definitely should be paid for those on-calls. Its unfathomable to me that someone can expect you to work without proper compensation.

RSA Security (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273624)

When I worked at RSA Security in their tech support department, we were paid $300 to be on call for the weekend, meaning carrying the company cell phone and being no more than 30 minutes from some way to handle a support case (VPN to the office was fine). For each call/case we received (I think) $75. Overall a pretty good deal for people handling products like ClearTrust, FIM, or Keon; not so good for the SecurId guys, who could make $1,000 on a busy weekend by working full time. They were guaranteed to get a bunch of cases; we weren't.

One amusing story a SecurId guy told me: There was extra pressure on them to handle cases quickly because, when you get fired, one of the first things they do is de-activate your token. If the server crashes on a Sunday morning, everyone who tries to authenticate from home can't log in and thinks they've been fired. Monday morning half your company is spamming resumes to your competitors.

Contract? (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273626)

What does the contract say? If support hours and costs are defined, that's that. If not, then it's up to the two parties to work something out.

I'd offer several options. For example:
1) Fixed monthly rate (for answering calls) plus normal hourly rate (for time involved to fix problem) or
2) No fixed rate, hefty hourly rate
3) No fixed rate, sliding scale depending on day and time (normal rate during normal hours to X times after midnight).
4) Combinations and variations of the above (i.e. fixed rate to answer weekend calls, plus hefty hourly rate)

Make sure you are ok with all the options, then by giving a choice, the client at least feels they get to choose what is best for themselves.

8 for 1 (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273634)

Here around (germany) they pay me 1 hour for every 8 hour on call, if NOTHING happen. If something happen, then I get the normal pay for that time (6h-20h), double pay otherwise, triple pay for sunday or holiday day.

Rather be a consultant than contractor (1)

mrisaacs (59875) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273642)

As an employee I never received overtime pay for being on call or overtime, though I always got comp time.

Technically contracting and consulting are not the same thing.

As a contractor, I've always been paid by the hour for a specific time span, when the contract expired it was extended or dropped. As far as support, I didn't get paid unless I was actually called in - my contracts always stated terms and rates. On some contracts there were ceilings on the amount I could bill.

As a consultant (current situation) I have specific deliverables, and scheduled dates for delivery. I'm paid a fixed amount for the work, with the final payment held until the acceptance conditions are met. My contracts usually include a support rider as well, for 6 months to a year after acceptance. further support requires a new contract. In any case there's no payment unless there's a problem. If I'm called in and the cause of the problem is determined not to be a "fault" in what I've delivered, I'm paid at a specified rate, otherwise, I eat the time.

Yes you should get paid (1)

future assassin (639396) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273648)

If you are on call beyond 40 hours per week and unless you were retarded to have taken the job knowing you're not gonna get paid pas the 40 hours then then you have to get paid.

A friend of mine works for a water filtration company, he was asked if he wanted to be on call. He said yes and he get paid double time for the on call and if its on call for more then certain amount of hours it goes up from there.

If the employer wants to make money of me past the 40 hours per week they better pay their share other wise I ain't putting out.

Why the hell would anyone want to be such a slave?

Yes you should (1)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 4 years ago | (#30273650)

If you are expected to have a response and fix things, then you need to be compensated for it. We used to not have a system and boy did it suck. Even with out getting "On Duty Pay", I can still get called. My Mom in Law DIED and I was at a funeral and I sure would hate to have someone call me then. Thank god my boss stopped the director in his tracks....

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