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How Do Companies Pay for "On-Call" Support?

Cliff posted more than 13 years ago | from the getting-good-24/7-service-and-paying-for-it dept.

The Almighty Buck 255

Wampamnstr asks: "In my organization (a mid sized non-profit hospital), it seems that every day the powers that be determine that yet another application/service is mission critical. Of course, they expect the tech workers to support it 24/7, yet fail to see the increased number of calls that are generated. I'm putting a proposal together to define where the problems lie, but I am looking for some feedback as to how other companies pay thier on call staff. The latest application they demanded that we support on a 24/7 basis is e-mail. One of our operating procedures dictates that no critical information is to be sent via e-mail, but they justify this by saying that e-mail is a integral part of what the users do for thier jobs. We'd love to support it, but any calls for e-mail support would result in the on call person being paged, which would increase the number of calls from 1-3 calls a week to closer to 20-30." Read on to learn about the companies current "on-call" payment scheme. Is this a fair way to compensate the workers providing the support?

"We have an 'on call pager' that each worker carries for 7 days, about once every 13 weeks, and the pager is only used between the hours of 5PM and 8AM. The person on call gets paid $60 for the week. If paged, and the on call person can walk the user through thier problem over the phone or via remote dialup the on call person gets paid nothing. Regardles of how many times they get paged and can fix the problem over the phone, or via remote dialup, they still get paid nothing. If the on call person has to go on site, they get paid an additional $60. However if they have to go on site more than once, they are limited to only getting the additional $60 once.

Simply put, the call volume will increase dramatically, as well as the after hours work load, but the organization isn't volunteering to pay us more. I'm looking to inform managent that the people who are on call know that the industry pays better than they are getting for the same type of work. So, I'm soliciting to find out exactly what other companies do."

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Send these until you get more $$$ for man power (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#698375)

To Whom it May Concern:

You are receiving this e-mail because we regret to inform you that due to lack of staffing we will be unable to attend to your after hours e-mail problem. If this problem persists you may contact the help desk via e-mail at between the hours of 8:00am-5:00pm. Please include your department, job title, name, phone number, and e-mail address, network id and a complete description of the problem. We will send you a confirmation e-mail with an anticipated date and time when one of our technicians will be able to assist you in correcting the problem.

Thank you

MyCompany Technical Support Team

Re:On Call (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#698376)

First: I am a "union geek" that gets hourly pay (an exception, I realize). I also work in a state university where there are very few 'mission critical' operations that have difficulties after hours, and no-one wears a pager. If they don't get us at home, they call the next one on the list or leave a message on the machine. I get perhaps two calls a month.

Overtime requiring a trip to work is paid at 1.5*salary, with a 3.33 hour minumum (ie 5 hours pay), payable at employee's option of salary or 'comp time'. Phone calls were generally handled casually, very few wrote them up.

Then a particular employee was getting LOTS of calls during a rough software transition period started writing up overtime for phone support, saying he would get it if he came in. And if he got two unrelated calls in a night, he wrote up two five-hour charges. This 'raised the issue', even though he took comp time.

The next time our bargaining unit contract came up, the issue of telephone support was raised, and not just for computer services. The agreement now amounts to "if the call is 15 minutes or less, it is not billable. If it's over 15 minutes, then the pay is 45 minutes or 1.5 * the time spent on the phone, whichever is longer."

This is a two-edged sword, though, because now people are more willing to write up overtime for phone support issues.


You are lucky (2)

tolldog (1571) | more than 13 years ago | (#698382)

I don't get anything for being on call.
If something breaks, I have to fix it or I get behind deadline.
I guess that is part of the problem of being your own support.
Others, that I know, have turned off the work cell phones on the weekend because they were getting nothing for being on call.
Be glad your company recognizes it but you should fight for better terms.

Re:My Experience (1)

garfield (1710) | more than 13 years ago | (#698387)

We are paid a flat sum (£100) a week for simply being 'on call'. This is roughly from 7am to 10pm at night. If we are called out however, and most of our work requires on site visits, we are all paid (no matter what our salery) £12.50 an hour overtime. This works well for me as its a substantial increase over my hourly rate, or even time*1.5.

Large telecom provider policy (1)

Gus (2568) | more than 13 years ago | (#698388)

The large telco I work for has the following policy:
Waged employees get a bonus of $125/week plus time worked for after-hours work. This can be counted towards overtime once a total of forty hours has been worked.

Salried employees used to be eligble for the $125/week bonus, but this was discontinued about a year ago. No bonus, and no overtime.

I'm not too angry about this, despite being a salaried worker.

Key is a good accounting system (1)

kid (3373) | more than 13 years ago | (#698390)

Each application must be owned by a manager who is responsible for delivery, and will be billed at the end of each month for having the staff on call, pager, telephone, and onsite support. The costs will come out of their monthly budget, which they will have to justify to their management. That should cut down on the number of "critical" applications! And, it pays for the support group, which should not be a cost-center, but operate as a profit-center, with product that is "sold" internally.

the best deal I ever had... (1)

lophophore (4087) | more than 13 years ago | (#698391)

was when I worked for the corporate support group for a large computer vendor.

To be "on-call" meant carrying a pager. For every 8 on-call hours, I got paid one hour at my regular (salaried) rate. If I had to go to the office, it was an additional $100.

If you were on call 24x7, you got paid for 7 days instead of 5, a big fat 40% bump. People in my group fought to be on-call, we had to have a waiting list to carry the pager.

The pager rarely went off; I would love to have that deal again.

there are 3 kinds of people:
* those who can count

On Call Hours (1)

Meleschi (4399) | more than 13 years ago | (#698393)

I work for a pretty decent Internet Access company, and am on call two weeks out of the month.

For each day on call, I recieve $15.00 regardless of whether I was paged or not.

I get paid per hour regular rate for any work I need to do while on call if I can do it from home.

If I need to travel at all, I get paid for the miles, and a two hour minimum. So if I travel somewhere, and it takes me 5 minutes to fix, I get paid for 2 hours plus milage. If I work for 3 hours, then I get paid 3 hours.

It's not too bad, considering things work very well around here, and there are hardly any serious problems.

my current setup (1)

boinger (4618) | more than 13 years ago | (#698395)

I work for Taos, Inc. [] and this is how they do it (at least, this is how I understand it and how I'm doing it - no one's said otherwise in the last 3 or 4 months):

  • record +2 hours to every on-call day
  • any calls/pages are billed in .25 hour increments
  • you get to count transit time (but, of course, use the best available - you can't walk 60 miles and count it) [I generally just round to "fair" because I always forget to note it when I'm in-transit]
I am personally very happy with this arrangement. But then, I almost never get paged (maybe once a week, max, and I really wish it were more).

I have a friend who, upon being paged, charged a 2-hour "base", and then "real time" past the first two hours. and, whenever on pager duty, he billed half-time. An impressive sca^Hheme if you can pull it off.

most places i've seen... (1)

Journey (5880) | more than 13 years ago | (#698398)

most of the places I've worked at or seen do something like the following:

person on call gets a fixed amount per week (or weekend) usually around $100 flat.

for any calls received, the person gets paid at basically contractor rates for a minimum number of hours. I've often heard $75-$100 per hour for a minimum of 2 to 4 hours.

that said, it's been a few years since i've been on call personally.


The way to compensate fairly... (2)

conifer (5924) | more than 13 years ago | (#698399)

This is for salaried, full time employees. Each tech keeps the pager for an evening (5pm to 8am) on a rotating basis. For each evening they have the pager, they get $100, whether they get 0 calls or 100, and they never visit the site - that's for business hours. The tech on the weekend is on call from 5pm Friday to 8am MOnday, and gets $100 and a comp day.I have worked in several places where this was the method. The company gets 24 hour supports for less than 40k a year, and the techs get some cash and some comp days. Everyone wins.

Um, no... (1)

KlomDark (6370) | more than 13 years ago | (#698400)

At what level would you draw such a line? What about someone making a penny less or more? No matter what you are getting paid, it is under the understanding that it is based on a 40 hour work week. Anything more than that must be compensated. It was great when the bank I used to work for realized that legally, us Senior System Engineers did not meet the legal definition of "exempt" and thus began paying us overtime! :)

Any job that expects you to carry a pager for freee, even if you are salary, is bullshitting you. Quit as soon as you can find another job.

$60? You're lucky. (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 13 years ago | (#698402)

Being on-call is considered part of our job and, thus, not worthy of any additional benefit or pay.

Depending on the number of techies, your pager-duty (which is 24x7) could be every other week or every fourth week. Typically, you work a full day each day for the full week and are also on-call for the entire world, except Asia. You're likely to be paged a few times and as much as a dozen on busy weeks. The average situation can last between an hour and 18 hours. I've been in situations where I worked a full work week, didn't sleep two of the week nights and spent 18 hours on a saturday and another 18 hours the next day (sunday) responding to an on-call page.

We found a web page on our internal servers that claims we're supposed to be paid what would equate to about $300+ per week that we're on call, which would come out to about $600 extra per month for each of us, but when we ask HR about it, they act like they've never heard of such a thing and think we're crazy.

Comp day... (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 13 years ago | (#698405)

I have done technical support for years, suffered through many different schemes, but the one that worked best (AFAIAC) is one comp day for every week of pager duty. The cost increase is minimal to the organization as a whole, and is something the technical people could use, much more so than a few extra bucks that get taxed away...

Of course, you would want to have folks working staggered shifts, so that the majority of calls can be caught by someone on duty, not the fellow at home with the family...

In the long run, this particular company may wind up saving money - and it will only cost you 1/5 of your average tech support persons salary - and it will be lost time, not increased charges for the company...

Handling out of hours problems (1)

Lando (9348) | more than 13 years ago | (#698407)

This is the type of work I handle. In fact, I am actually responsible for handling all alarming in a large worldwide organization.

I have held similiar positions in other companies as well. I can tell you how the big boys typically handle it and possible solutions.

In the companies that I have worked for operations continue 24 hours a day. Having an outage at 3am in the morning is the same as an outage at 2pm in the afternoon in the comapany's viewpoint.

Typically, if there is a high volume of mission critical applications running around the clock changing the support staff to a 24x7 schedule is generally preferred with the two off shifts receiving a 10% pay bonus.

Also, the people working the 24x7 shifts are the front line defense. They are there to deal with user problems, ie tier I and moderate application problems (tier 2) they do not get on-call pay.

Tier 3 people are paid around $12-$20 dollars a shift for being oncall. Not much money, ie for me $192.00 a week, but they seldom get called.

An important note, is that my current company requires employees to be hired temp to perm. Temp employees are paid a minimum of 1 hour of time anytime they are called, ie 3 calls 3 hours billable time.

My preference of course is to have a 24x7 team that can handle most problems so that I rarely get called. I have on-call 2 weeks out of every 6 currently, but have had it for 16 weeks solid in the past.

As for the number of calls you are getting, I have the following suggestions.

Get rid of the customer calls, this is better handled by a help desk. Help desk people are far less expensive than the actual techs working for you.

Build a customer problem website. Create a website that lay's out what to do about frequent problems. Note, this will help a little, but some people refuse to use printed documentation to fix their problems and they will still call. If you are in the business of support though, these customers should not be abused. That's just the way some people are and you are still there to serve the customer. But this website would be helpful to your help desk people as well.

Reduce problems. Currently, I watch over a couple of thousand systems and I have very few problems. Look into automating a lot of the problems that occur. There are several packages out there that let you monitor and take corrective actions automatically so that you just get an email in the morning about all the problems fixed.

I can offer suggestions on how to set up automation to help if you would like.

Hopefully this is of some help. This is the type of environment that I enjoy working in. Most companies are not willing to pay for it.


PS. If you are going to try to get the company to change it's policies, you will have to collect metrics on the number of problem calls and the amount of time you spend on them.

PSS. Try getting some comp time out of your boss for time spent on work outside of work hours.

You get paid for this? ;) (1)

Roogna (9643) | more than 13 years ago | (#698408)

As salleried employees for my employer, the vast majoirty of their on-call Sys Admins and whatnot get nothing extra monatarilly for being on-call 24/7. Well we get the nifty pagers that give us world news on an hourly basis *smirk* guess we should be happy. The point being, my curiosity as to how many companies compensate at _all_ for this kind of thing. Our job description just says we'll answer the pages, and so we do. We do get some 'extra' benefits that are overlooked for us (long lunches and sometimes long weekends, et al.) but not officially. Overall at points the various people on my team range from content with the unofficial comp-time, to completely irritated that we aren't getting paid for it. Usually most irritated when some consultant comes in at $100+ an hour and racks up the money, whilest we have to be there too and gain nothing. Now, not to make this sound too much like a rant, it's not really, but again, I'm curious how many sys. admin type workers are in this situation, and how many are happy with it. I can also say, that frequently in my case at least that an extra day or two on the weekend (Though I still have to answer pages while out of town) without having to constantly use up my vacation, is well worth the lack of monatary compensation. But others on our team _NEVER_ take long weekends, and certainly should be getting something out of the deal in my opinion. Seems to be a lot of personal preference though.

support sucks (2)

FigWig (10981) | more than 13 years ago | (#698412)

A subject near and dear to my heart. I am a salaried employee supporting an e-commerce app. Unfortunately there are only 2 of us on the support team, so we switch off every other week. We get paid 15% over our base salary for being on call all of those hours. The pay is nice, but we have to be near a dial up connection all the time, so no camping, no bars for that week - our service agreement says 15 minute response time. Not really worth it if you ask me.

Calling someone to fix your email (2)

MSG (12810) | more than 13 years ago | (#698414)

There are a lot of good answers to your question, from people who are experienced with similar setups. While other new "needs" will come up, and your question will require answering now or later, I have a question I'd like to ask...

Why would you call someone to fix your email after hours?? The only reason I can think of is that you have some urgent message to send ASAP. So you call a technician? Why not just call the person you needed to get the message to? Wouldn't that be faster for everyone?

Consultants (1)

funkman (13736) | more than 13 years ago | (#698416)

They charge by the hour. If it turns out costing too much, that means something needs revamped.

Whoa! (2)

MO! (13886) | more than 13 years ago | (#698418)

I have to completely disagree with the basis of your argument.

Just because the email system may have failures 20 times a week does not necessarily mean the email admin is not doing thier job! The Company as a whole is responsible for that system. If someone up top decided a robust, stable system is too expensive - and purchases instead an instable one, that's the Company's fault - not mine!

I've worked in the past for a rather large company which had a subsidiary purchase a low-end, untested in large-scale environments, instable transaction processing system. It was then my job as the IT person to support it. This thing was a total piece of crap! I recommended multiple architectural changes to it to stabilize it and the vendor who developed it would shoot the idea down. Management sided with the vendor, after all - it was his system, not mine!

You can't possibly tell me that the above situation is an issue with me not doing my job correctly! After 3 months of that crap, I quit in frustration!

I don't care what hospital resident's work, that's not my business. If they're getting screwed, it's up to them to fix things. I'm not going to accept some other industry's curse being placed upon me for the simple reason that they accept it - so I must too.

Finally, if you were stupid enough to provide pager duty during your honeymoon - you deserve the divorce you're probably headed for.

There is a quote I've heard, and vehemently adhere to, although I don't know the originator to give proper credit...

I work to live, not live to work

On Call compensation (1)

ateche (14190) | more than 13 years ago | (#698419)

I work for a smallish department in a large academic institution. I am in a salary position and I am not directly compensated for my time on call. Though, if I am called in for three hours, that is three hours I can take off some other time.

A coworker of mine is paid by the hour. When he is on call, he is paid $2.00/hour just to be on call. If he is called in, he gets paid a two hour minimum for each call. If the call exceeds two hours, he gets paid his normal hourly rate for everything beyond that.

Moneywise, we end up making about the same.

The standard way... (5)

198348726583297634 (14535) | more than 13 years ago | (#698420)

is to compensate hourly for your time on the pager. If you're not being given even a paltry sum (say, $10/hr for on-call time, plus OT for having to go on-site), then you're being screwed. It sounds like you're being screwed.

If your management isn't receptive enough to make a change in policy to compensate you fairly for this PITA job (i had to wear a pager for several months- fortunately didn't have to respond to it much), then I'd say you should find a way to get out of pager duties entirely or find a different place to work. One that'll pay you what you're worth.

(but is any amount of money worth giving up hours of precious sleep/coding time/bedtime-fun to step a user through making Lookout2k work at 11pm?)

Suck it Up (3)

InitZero (14837) | more than 13 years ago | (#698424)

I've worked for a number of newspapers in systems support. At all of them, I've been on call 24/7. In the past eight years, there hasn't been a single time that I didn't carry a pager. That include weekends, vacations and my honeymooon. During the day, I carry a two-way radio and most of the time I've got a cell phone. That's the nature of the beast.

I see the above as part of my job. The better I do my job, the fewer pages I get. When systems I'm responsible for break, it is my responsibility to fix them. Period. If I'm doing my job right, my after-hours calls are few and far between.

If you expect your mail server (Exchange, right? {grin}) to break 20 to 30 times a week, you are not doing your job. Your system is unstable. Your procedures are flawed. Your operators (or whatever group handles daily maintenance) are poorly trained. Something is horribly wrong. That is your problem. Not the on-call schedule's.

If you want to look at worker abuse, look not at the IT workers in your hospital, look at the residents. It's not uncommon for residents to work 80 hours or more a week. My aunt, a nurse, tells me that 20-hour shifts are expected. It's part of joining the Club Doctor.


Re:nothing extra! (2)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 13 years ago | (#698435)

Ahh.. but the difference is that, if you happen to be not home, not available, or drunk... you don't get fired.

When you are paid to be on-call, you *MUST* be available.

Reality check. (3)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 13 years ago | (#698436)

The on-call employee should be paid all of the following:

a) An on-call fee that is reasonable. This need only be a fraction of their daily salary as if they are working, however, $60/week is rediculously low. Usually $50/day or something (provided the employee generally makes say, $150/day on a working day).
b) Time spent doing actual support should be paid at full wages, regardless of whether a trip in to the office is required or not. The 'on-call' fee is not supposed to compensate you for actual work done, only for keeping yourself available.
c) If you do have to go in, not only should wages be paid for work, but for the time driving to and from the site to solve the problem.

In short.. on-call fee is paid so that your time can become 'their time' on a moments notice. You give up some freedom in exchange for a fee.

If they decide to take that freedom and have you work, they shoudl pay you for it.

Check with the State Employment office (1)

jhigham (20896) | more than 13 years ago | (#698438)

Call the state and see if they have someone that can help you. Here it is called the 'Employment Relations Division'(?).

They can tell you what the law is, so you may actually be legally entitled to more than you are making (backpay and all). If being oncall restricts your mobility (ie, you can't go hiking in the woods), then here in MT you need to be compensated for that time. If you have to work when on call, that needs to be paid at an hourly rate.

Now if your salary or wage isn't really worth providing 24/7 support, then you will need to talk to your employer and work out a more adequate bit, but it sounds like you probably have some labor laws backing you up.

In any question about this, check the law books. Sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised at what is on the books.

On call wages (1)

echristo (21824) | more than 13 years ago | (#698441)

IME I've seen one fairly "standard" practice.

1) On call you receive 1 hour of pay for every 4 hours on call.

2) If a call occurs you are paid 1 hour of pay for every hour worked.

This also seems fair and equitable to both parties (having disgruntled employees on call isn't fun for anyone).


Mimic Doctor and Nurse on-call (1)

dolt (23627) | more than 13 years ago | (#698443)

I worked in IS at a hospital for three years. The best way to combat every system being named "mission critical" is to demand the same benefits and pay as other hospital 24x7 on-call personnel such as doctors and nurses and their direct support staff.

You will likely see a drop-off in so-called "mission critical" systems as the cost of supporting these mission critical systems goes up.

Email isn't mission critical: treating patients is mission critical. Admitting them is secondary, and billing them is probably a close third. Email? Yeah, right.. But I'm preaching to the choir.

(I wouldn't expect your email infrastructure to be so troublesome that it would cause 20-30 calls/week, though!)

How much my company pays (1)

MinaInerz (25726) | more than 13 years ago | (#698445)

My company pays quite well.

For every call, you get paid 1.5x your "hourly salary". All calls are considered a minimum of one hour. If you get called three times in the same hour, you get paid for three hours worth of overtime. All calls over one hour are rounded up to the nearest 15 minutes.

So, if I make $60,000/yr, and I get 22 calls during the week, I would make:

$43.27*2 2 =$951.93/week.

We feel that it is a pretty fair amount of money. (I'm a Solaris sysadmin)

Here's how we do it... (3)

PxT (26449) | more than 13 years ago | (#698446)

I work for as a Unix Admin at a large IT company. After hours support (in my area of the company) is maintained on a volunteer basis. The on-call person carries a pager three weeks out of the quarter on average. They are compensated based on the actual number of hours in the month (outside the normal 8-5) that they have to wear it. The extra pay then ranges from 5-15% (based on their normal monthly salary) depending on the amount of time spent. This is whether or not a call comes in.

That's better than our company (2)

Rupert (28001) | more than 13 years ago | (#698448)

When I was hired to my current job I was doing every other week on call, with a bunch of crappy apps on 150 poorly configured NT servers in distant locations on slow links. Oncall was a nightmare. I got paid no extra for the odd hours of the night at which Dr. Watson would decide to Dr. Watson.

Then the extremely controlling senior tech (hi, Mike!) quit. Within weeks I was down to on call one week in thirteen, and instead of first level I was down to second level, and in some cases third level. Of course, I still don't get paid any extra.

To answer the question (in a pathetic attempt to get back on topic): get some quotes from third party companies to do the additional support you require. That gives you a figure to base your extra compensation on. I would recommend a fixed extra amount for oncall weeks, rather than trying anything per-incident, as the more complex you make your scheme the more loopholes there will be in it. I've seen companies where a pager would go off and half the department would get in their cars to drive to the office for the "having to go in" bonus.

As long as the problems are getting fixed (and you should make sure they are) it is in your interests to have them fixed from home. They get fixed quicker that way.


Re:It's called salary (1)

Aphexian (29497) | more than 13 years ago | (#698450)

That's great if you work in the private sector for a 9-5 company.
-But mission critical hospital systems are completely different.

Would you want to be lying in bed and the doc can't get your results because the tech decided
"There are some things that will simply wait until the next business day..."??

Nope...Nobody else wants that either...

Re:Send these until you get more $$$ for man power (1)

Aphexian (29497) | more than 13 years ago | (#698451)

Absolutely true, in my experience, most hospitals don't use email after 5:00 period...

Unless the email is contained in some messaging function of the clinical system - in which the messages usually boil down to "Hey you wanna go to dinner soon?"

But I think (and judging by the responses to this article) the article hinted at more than just a problem with calls increasing due to email - More and more systems are being deemed "mission critical" and there is no system in place to fairly compensate the work that is required after hours.

Compensation and staffing needs to increase, or the number of mission critical systems needs to be re-evaluated.

Mine was always - "Critical to patient care." - That can be misconstrued....Maybe it should be "critical to patient survival"
Ooo....That doesn't sound too good. Hmmm...I'll have to think on that one.

Re:It's called salary (1)

Aphexian (29497) | more than 13 years ago | (#698452)

I also work in hospital IT, although I got off the on-call rotation. (Thank God)

We were 24/7 salary - no paid on-call time. What I was taking issue with was the idea that "salary" should constitute "watching the clock".

Email is not, IMO a mission-critical system, but if management decides that it is - I will come in just the same and work just as hard to fix the problem.

Simply saying "Some things can wait" is not always the answer.

And not being a clinician, I may not always be justified in expressing my opinions by not acting on a problem.

What needs to be reviewed is the compensation, if management will not review the policy.

Well $60/week ain't gonna cut it (1)

Ben Jackson (30284) | more than 13 years ago | (#698453)

A good on-call compensation package would include:
  • Hourly pay for carrying the pager/phone (eg 1 for 8 or 1 for 4)
  • Hourly pay for working any calls that come in
  • ...preferably with a 2 or 4 hour minimum each time a call is received
  • ...all times a multiplier if it's a holiday
If you get 1-for-8 to carry a pager during non-working hours, a week of carrying (including 1 weekend but no calls) is 16 hours of pay, which is a 40% increase in gross pay. If you're called that just goes up.

And in return you set response expectations like:

  • 15 minute response to any page
  • Able to get to a terminal in 1 hour (depends on the nature of the work, may need more or less)
  • Able to be onsite in 2 hours (again, depending on the nature of the work)
  • Engineer willing to work the pager regularly, on a schedule.

On Call (3)

BacOs (33082) | more than 13 years ago | (#698459)

In a former position, we rotated on-call support for the application we supported between the two support people on a weekly basis. We both had dial in access to the system and were paid overtime (minimum of one hour) for each incident that could be solved from offsite and for any incident that required an office visit, we were paid for a minimum of four hours.

My experience (1)

rips (34200) | more than 13 years ago | (#698461)

I currently work for a rather large IT organisation (65,000 employees) and I'm currently rostered on-call for several systems I support.

My division is a result of a recent aquisition of a smaller company (1500 employees) at which we used to receive 10% of our standard hourly wage for every hour on call (that is, without even being called out). This amounted to 12.8hrs/wk extra pay.

If we were called out, we would get paid for a minimum of 4 hours work at time-and-a-half on weekdays and double-time on weekends.

It was a rather good deal!

Since the aquisition, we now get paid $300/wk to be on call and a minimum of 1 hr per a callout at standard rate weekdays and time-and-a-half on weekends.

We typically go on-call for two weeks at a time and cycle amongst 3 people.

Being an intern sucks, eh? (2)

MemRaven (39601) | more than 13 years ago | (#698467)

But you probably knew that going into the job (if you're an intern, you've almost certainly been around recently enough to watch St. Elsewhere, and maybe even ER before you got into medicine).

Yep, that system completely sucks. Yes, it's probably quite a bit of a "I had to do my time, now so should you." (kind like learning Scheme, IMHO). But you probably knew that going in, and once you're through the intern phase you'll never do it again.

Saying that you HAVE to go through that (and you don't....if you're a competant programmer you could do that for a living and make a quite nice salary) and that others should grow up isn't quite fair. If they all of a sudden told you, mid-way through your internship, that you'd have to start staying up every 4th night, you'd probably fight back quite seriously.

Re:Send these until you get more $$$ for man power (2)

MemRaven (39601) | more than 13 years ago | (#698468)

  • He's already said that the hospital has a policy that critical care/services are not provided under email.
  • Have you ever seen a hospital that relied on email for things like medical care? If it's time critical, they'll page the doctor/pharmacist and use the phone.
  • Most hospitals are very paper-bound, mostly because they need written records and it's not usually good to carry palmtops around everywhere.

Inform them of the tradeoffs, and then get your CV (5)

MemRaven (39601) | more than 13 years ago | (#698469)

Unfortunately, this is a common refrain that I've heard whenever dealing with technical people. It's like squeezing water from a stone: no matter how hard you squeeze it, without fundamentally changing the nature of the stone (and turning it into a sponge or something) you're never going to get more out of it.

Explain to them that your people aren't robots/computers, and you can't just add load to them without changing something. Tell them that if they institute this policy, people WILL quit, and the cost of replacing them will be prohibitive.

But perhaps you should phrase it in an analogy that they can understand. Let's say that they have 100 beds in the hospital. Let's say that it's a VERY well-run hospital and they're running a 90% utilization rate. The hospital only covers non-emergency care (i.e. no Trauma ward in the ER). Now the hospital wants to start taking Trauma cases. Maybe the ER itself can handle it, but they probably don't have enough beds for the additional load. They probably don't have enough nurses, additional doctors, etc.

They can't make the decision to take trauma cases just based on the ER....they have to look at the WHOLE hospital's ability to handle the increased load.

The issue with additional 24-7 support of email is very similar. They can say that they're going to do it, but without providing additional resources, it can't actually be done. If they want to offer trauma care, they have to be able to handle the whole thing, add additional beds, nurses, etc. This is the same thing.

The problem is that the people you're dealing with probably don't understand it on the same level. They just think of services, and think that they can just add them for free.

The most difficult thing to do, but probably the correct one, is to have the person running the on-call program categorically refuse to do it. If you stand together, unless they just fire the lot of you (which they KNOW they won't do) you've got a lot of leverage there.

Make your best case. Speak logically, use analogies, use numbers. When all else fails, make blatant, explicit ultimatums and refusals. You wouldn't tell them how to run medical care, they shouldn't tell you how to run a support centre.

Re:$60?? (1)

Martel (41139) | more than 13 years ago | (#698471)

When i worked for a local university we were on call for a week at a time on about a 2 month rotation. Between 5pm and 8am on the weekdays we
received 90 cents an hour for being on call. On weekend we were paid the full 24 hours. This worked out to about $100 in our paychecks. Now i've gone private sector and again i'm on call.
Now i get paid nothing for being on call. Seems rather rediculous that we are required to be in town and available for a week and are not compensated in any way.

Re:Medicine (2)

goliard (46585) | more than 13 years ago | (#698473)

And for this you are paid.... $50k/yr? $75k/yr? $100k/yr? What?

The question of whether or not someone is being exploited rather depends on how much they're being paid, doesn't it?

My On-Call Experience (1)

HaveGunWillTravel (51986) | more than 13 years ago | (#698479)

A former, nameless employer dealt with our on-call issues thusly...

We were paid overtime (of a sort) for hours worked above and beyond 40 hours in a week. "Sort of" means that we were paid on a sliding scale figured like this:

H/W/2 = weekly salary

H == hours per week
W == wages for the week
2 == yup, divided in half

in effect, a person who makes $800 per week in base salary and works 10 hours of overtime makes a total of $880 (or, each overtime is worth $8 using the above formula).

what this meant is that, in the case of relatively minor overtime, we were compensated fairly well. but, in clusterf**k weeks, we were screwed. it was a compromise. the company didn't want to pay more, but we weren't willing to offer 24/7 support for free (they didn't believe in comp time, either).

in fact, we called it "insult time", but to be fair, we were happy to get something whereas most support-types got zilch for extra hours.

the strings attached were thus. we were classed in federal terms as "technicians", not "professionals". according to federal law, we had to have a "clear and mutual understanding between employer and employee" that we were not required to work a 40-hour week if there weren't support issues. and, we were not allowed to have regular, recurring duties (swapping tapes).

the meter begain ticking on the insult time clock the minute a page arrived, so we were paid for any time it took to get from wherever we were to the office.

of course, my former employer absolutely expected me to work 40 hours a week and perform recurring tasks, despite what the feds said :)

and i'm not suggesting this as a model of some sort. but, afaik, this special classing was created by the feds specifically for us poor techies who work 80 hours a week when things break (and 79.5 when things don't). hope it's helpful.

- j

What happened to us (1)

JamesO (56897) | more than 13 years ago | (#698481)

We got 150 pounds ($220) extra for each week we were on call. We got an additional 50 pounds ($75) plus expenses each time we had to go into the office outside normal hours.

After I kicked up a fuss, having spent 3 hours dialed to the customer from home and not being paid, that was changed to 50 pounds if we couldn't talk the customer through it (ie, we had to intervene).

I should say that this was for about 4th line support, so there weren't many calls, but when they came, they were stinkers...

Feds (1)

birder (61402) | more than 13 years ago | (#698482)

Don't often get it but the Public Service in Canada has a standard .5 hours for every 4 hours on call status. If you get a call to come in you can claim another 2 hours.

This is to the best of my memory.

Everything has a cost. Just remember while they are trying to cheat you out of a few hundred bucks, they are probably flying to Spain first class to a conference. No one looks out for their best interests but themselves.

IT Unions (4)

stukuz (63484) | more than 13 years ago | (#698483)

When I was doing systems programming in Sweden, the unions, both employer and employee unions, agreed that a service call between 8pm and 6am, for a day shift person, was equivalent to 3 hours of your personal time. It was rewarded by 3 hrs pay or 3 hrs of comp time. Maybe there is a need for white collar unions here too.

Lotus interview (1)

madaket (64490) | more than 13 years ago | (#698485)

I once interviewed at Lotus and I was told that the on-call week would add ~$120 to my paycheck for the week and that would only cover the first two hours of the first problem. After that, you'd get paid by the hour for off-hours support. I think this was both for full-timers and consultants.
This is the most fair system that I've ever heard of.
No, I didn't get the job...

Techies need incentive (1)

rossz (67331) | more than 13 years ago | (#698488)

They should be paid extra for simply being on call, whether they are called or not. This adds the further incentive to make the system as bullet-proof as possible since they still get the extra money. (kharma whoring on) Obviously, a non-Microsoft mail server would be a requirement (kharma whoring off).

Personally, I wouldn't take a job that required me to answer a page at odd hours without a guarantee of extra pay.

Let me paraphrase your paragraph (1)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 13 years ago | (#698492)

I can do it in one sentence: "That's how they've done it in my area for as long as I can remember, so everyone should take the same abu... er, treatment and not complain."

My response is equally simple: Just because MD's are expected to jepoardize their sanity with such punishing schedules, and also their patients' health by trying to perform tasks requiring the finest of judgement when their facilities are working at far below par, does not make it a model for the rest of the world. Quite the opposite. The 24-hour shifts and other ridiculous stretches expected of doctors should have been banned at the same time that minimum rest breaks were specified for truck drivers (hint, that was sixty-plus years ago).
Build a man a fire, and he's warm for a day.

Policy at my last support job (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 13 years ago | (#698493)

Everyone where I work now is salary. Management is VERY reasonable about comp time, etc. on the occasions where paging is necessary.

At my last (support) job it worked like this. You get paged, you get two hours for starters. This would typically be at 1.5 time because you would already be working a 40 hour week, but this was not automatic. If it took more than two hours, you get payed for the time it took, rounded to the next 15 min. So you get paged for 1 hour, 30 min and 3:20min you get 2+2+3.5=7.5 hours. If it became too much (say 4 hours in a night) this, or some part, could normally be taken as comp time.

This seemes fair, because it really is a chunk of time (say, 2 hours) out of your night or weekend, if you have to drop everything for a five minute call.


Bonus or compensation is a must. (1)

Ragle Gumm (78794) | more than 13 years ago | (#698495)

Hi --

I work at a major colocation ISP. We used to be paid salary plus a bonus for billable hours. Employees used to grumble a bit about 3am calls, but it would add to our bonuses - so we dealt with it.

Recently "Management" took away the bonus, and gave us all a raise to reflect the lost income.

In theory most of us make the same amount of money as before. Morale however has suffered tremendously. 90% of the office leaves at 6pm sharp. Before there would be people here at all hours. The motivation to get out of bed or answer a weekend page is lessened with no "extra" compensation.

Lately we've started losing people, because of the lost bonus and several other factors. Now there are fewer people to be on call, so we get the pager more. It works out to be about every 4 weeks now.

I would expect that pretty soon after the situation becomes unworkable whoever is left here will probably be receiving a bonus again.

The moral? If you expect your employees to give up personal time (which is critical to them) to support your infrastructure (which is critical to you) pay them well for it, or prepare to replace them . . .

Two tiered... (1)

Sand_Man (81150) | more than 13 years ago | (#698496)

The Bank I used to work for had a two tiered approach. The mainframers had to support their stuff 24/7 with no compensation, theory being that if they put the stuff into production it better not need support. The desktop guys (read: Windows support) carried the beeper 1 week in five and got $40 a week + $15 a phone call + $25/hr for onsite plus mileage + (and this is why it worked) 1:1 comp time.

The mainframers didn't like it, but then their stuff VERY rarely needed support.

Number, damn number, and statistics :-) (1)

Crimplene Prakman (82370) | more than 13 years ago | (#698498)

Here's what we did:
  • First, the support engineer (me) was paid an extra $120 per month for being permanently on call, volume of calls was about 3 - 4 per week. This works out at approx $10 per call
  • Then calls got more numerous, support staff got increased, so we shifted. We counted our daily calls, average call times, and came up with:
    45 mins per call, 8 - 12 calls per day shift per agent (it's a complex software product) 7 Out of hours calls per week
This didn't warrant an extra person, but it did warrant an extra person day per week. We decided that if it grew to any more we would extend the working day by an hour each way, to reduce the out of hours calls.

As you have a 24 hour operation, there may be some munging of numbers, but if you expect 20 - 30 calls per week = 4 calls per day, you might ask for another body to handle the graveyard shift, even if he is sitting on his butt for 3/4 the time. You may even get a CS undergrad to work nights for relatively cheaply :-)


ps To all CS undergrads: don't take this personally! I would have jumped at the chance for a nighttime helpdesk job in my early days...

We may be human, but we're still animals.

Re:Suck it Up (1)

Pariah (88204) | more than 13 years ago | (#698503)

"If you expect your mail server (Exchange, right? {grin}) to break 20 to 30 times a week, you are not doing your job. Your system is unstable. Your procedures are flawed. Your operators (or whatever group handles daily maintenance) are poorly trained. Something is horribly wrong. That is your problem. Not the on-call schedule's. " I disagree with this. You can get 20-30 calls a week from people who're just plain too stupid to be trusted with an email system no matter how well configured it may be. A previous job I held had calls like this: "Hi, I'm trying to send an email and it won't go." "Well, what happens?" "For the longest time it kept saying it couldn't find him, and now I've got the starfield lock." "Right. Find who?" "My cousin, Bob." "What's his email address?" "I don't know. Do I need that?" This is not the fault of anyone but whoever hired this idiot... ("Starfield lock", just in case anyone cares, turned out to be that his screen saver had come on.)

Re:Compensation at my former employer (1)

Kevster (102318) | more than 13 years ago | (#698507)

We had a similar deal at EDS Canada. C$150/week (~US$100) for being on-call. Overtime for any calls, with a nightly minimum of 2 hours. There was no on-site support required of us, as on-site stuff was handled by a different organization (EDS Innovations! :-) ) who had their own system for charging (I think it was a minimum of $200). This arrangement was for employees paid on an hourly basis. I think I earned about C$8,000+ in a year this way.

Overtime, Extra Per-Hour Pay and Saying "no" (1)

n3rd (111397) | more than 13 years ago | (#698513)

At my old job, we had a pager, cellular phone and laptop that changed hands weekly.

If you were on call that week, you got 8 hours of overtime pay, regardless of if you got 0 or 100 pages. Also, for any time you had to come in, you got a minimum of 4 hours pay, and anything over that was time and a half.

This is great for multiple reasons. First, you may not like getting paged, but getting a minimum of 4 hours pay was really nice. Just have to reboot an NT server? No problem! Cha-ching!

Second, the other departments knew of this policy, and we were only paged if it was *critical* since it really ate into IT's budget if the on-call person was paged. Basically, the person who was paging the on-call person had to have a good buisiness reason for the oncall person to come in, or even do anything.

The last, and most important, was the on-call person's ability to say "no". If this was one baffoon who couldn't get his e-mail working on a Sunday, we told him to call the Help Desk Monday. If a production server crashes, then the IT person comes in for sure.

Companies need to let IT be "in charge" like this and have the ability to help or deny help to users depending on the situation. This can lead to arguments of what "critical" is, but management needs to trust IT make these judgement calls, discuss the impact of those decisions later and learn from the decisions made and results viewed.

A real-life consulting company's pager policy (2)

brassman (112558) | more than 13 years ago | (#698514)

Carrying the pager over the weekend is three hours pay. Each page is one hour's pay, PLUS the number of hours spent working on the problem, in hour increments.

Let's say I get paged twice, and the first call takes 45 minutes and the second takes two hours. Three hours plus two pages plus one hour (rounded up) plus two hours. I get credit for eight billable hours.

(And yeah, that's considerably more than $120.)

Re:Send these until you get more $$$ for man power (2)

Smitty825 (114634) | more than 13 years ago | (#698516)

That would work fine for another industry, but it will not work if people's lives are on the line at this hospital. Imagine a doctor giving some guy a medicine that they are alergic to, because the doctor couldn't access the records, and you weren't there to help them...

24X7 Support (3)

Kagato (116051) | more than 13 years ago | (#698517)

First, there are a lot of holes here to fill in. Does 24X7 mean just critical sytem outage, or does it include any questions the Gaylord Fochers of the world may have for you? Is there any front line technical support 24X7? Is this a crapy exchange based mail system, or something stable in UNIX such as Openmail?

Generally, I've found non-profs are the worst to work for IT wise. It's almost as bad as a Co-op. Limited funding is always an issue. However, this being said I can add the following:

* There are plenty of places that offer outsource support by per minute prices. On the low side you can expect $1.50/Minute. If you have a lot of simple questions you get then this can work well.
A more cost effective measure is to hire a sudo technical person for second shift. Enough to take the heat off, and to be able to do simple tests to determine if the system is really down, or if it's a client issue.

* Being on call is one of the bains of the exempt employee status. It's not uncommon to only be offered comp time. On the other hand, it's not uncommon for an email admin in a 24X7 enviroment to get in the high 50K range as starting pay.

The problem with the wage comparison charts is that they rarely look at the pay ranges for people who work the long 24X7 hours.

Work based compensation is okay, but it doesn't factor in the stuff you can't do because you were tied to the pager.

* You should have the higher ups compare how much you're getting VS how much it would cost to outsource. Compare that to how much value the service you're offering is.

* Finally, if all else fails. It's a good IT market right now. Get a consulting job. Consultants are usually exempt for pager duty, and often you can tell your pimp upfront that you expect time and a half for all after hours works.

Another datapoint... (1)

bluto (121212) | more than 13 years ago | (#698523)

I work at a DOE lab. It's pretty similar in that we take oncall for 7 days about once every 8 weeks. We get a fixed $40/day whether we are paged or not. This isn't too bad for an average week. On really tough ones, other folks on our team willingly swap a day so the stuckee can get some rest. They are probably worried about paying us on a "per page" basis. We'd probably start getting a lot more "pages".

Zip... nothing... nadda (1)

WPIDalamar (122110) | more than 13 years ago | (#698527)

I work at a glass fabrication plant which is a 5x24 operation. A handfull of the managers there have my phone number if I happen to not be there when a major problem occurs. Where major problem==They can't produce glass. When I get a call, if it's not major, I let them know, and hang up. If it is, I'll dial in and try to fix it, and in rare cases I'll go in. Now, under MA state law, you must be paid for 3 hours of work if you get called in. So if I get called, and resolve the problem in 10 minutes, 3 hours goes down. If I have to drive in, I include my commute time, plus a bit of "crankiness" time. They are too afraid of loosing me to question 5 hours here, and 3 hours there.

You Should Get Compensation - No Question (1)

TheShrike (123025) | more than 13 years ago | (#698528)

As a consultant, I get paid based on my hourly rate, with a minimum 15 minutes if the pager goes off, minimum 1 hour if I have to go in to the office, with the clock running door-to-door. If the company takes your time, they should compensate you - period. Whether that's in the form of compensatory time off, or payroll, you shouldn't stand for anyone taking your time this way, without fair compensation.

Compensation for Production Support (1)

Kotetsu (135021) | more than 13 years ago | (#698532)

The poor sods here who work production support are simply _expected_ to do it, as part of their normal job - even though it's off hours. That's one of the reasons I transferred to a department where I don't have to carry the damn beeper and answer phone calls at 1 AM an more. The baffling part is why people put up with it. It has been proposed multiple times to management, and they keep coming up with lame excuses why not.

Re:My Experience (1)

yamla (136560) | more than 13 years ago | (#698535)

This is a good plan, though did you guys get paid for the entire 5 pm - 8 am shift or just for the time spent on the call itself?

I would suggest a flat fee of $60 for the evening being on-call plus $30 per call after the first one if you can resolve it over the phone or $60 per call if you have to go on site.

The most important thing is bill this back to the department who paged you!

Re:nothing extra! (1)

yamla (136560) | more than 13 years ago | (#698536)

Check the labour laws. Here, all work must be confined to within twelve consecutive hours during a given day.

Except, of course, that this does not apply to IT professionals because the Alberta government is susceptable to bribes.

Re:On Call (2)

yamla (136560) | more than 13 years ago | (#698537)

Note that by law in Alberta, Canada, a person must be paid for three hours minimum when called in regardless of whether they worked three hours or two minutes.

I don't know if this applies to salaried employees, though.

Don't put up with it! (2)

Tassach (137772) | more than 13 years ago | (#698538)

If your employer is abusing you, don't just bend over & take it -- do somthing about it. If you are a competant technician, you have negotiating power with your employer. If you threaten to quit over it, your employer will take notice. If you get a bunch of your co-workers to do the same, they'll really get a clue (or a rude awakening). For the time being at least, skilled geeks have the upper hand on employers.

I believe that if you are on-call, you *are* working -- you are not free to do as you please when you are on the electronic leash. While on call, you deserve to be paid *the* *same* *amount* you would be paid if you were sitting at your desk on-site waiting for service calls to come in.

I've learned from experience to ask during the job interview if any on-call time is required. Personally, I refuse to take jobs that want me to wear an electronic leash; but if I were to take one, I'd insist on being compensated for my time. My free time is MINE, damnit. I take a job on the understanding that they are paying me X amount of dollars for Y amount of work. You want more work, it's going to cost you -- either by me more or by paying a headhunter to find someone to replace me.

Re:$60?? (2)

Tassach (137772) | more than 13 years ago | (#698539)

Check out your state's labor laws. This may be illegal. In many/most states, if your employer is restricting your activities IN ANY WAY due to being on-call, then you are ON THE CLOCK -- and this usually applies to "exempt" (salaried) employees as well.

Take a different approach. (2)

plover (150551) | more than 13 years ago | (#698546)

Given that your support needs sound like they're growing enough to overwhelm any one person, consider establishing a "help desk". They could staff a desk 24/7/365 and handle some first level calls (my password doesn't work, my e-mail prints on the wrong printer, etc.) Anything requiring escalation is sent by them to your pager. The staff doesn't call you directly.

This not only solves your problem of tech staff being overwhelmed by on-call duties, but the manager of the help desk is then responsible for budget and staff increases as the responsibilities increase.

You're just experiencing growning pains. Remember, support needs always grow. I have never heard of a support organization shrink because the company involved dropped some troublesome technology. Sell this idea by telling management you're positioning yourself for the future.

If they balk at the expense, you can lease 24/7 support desk service from any number of vendors. And before you ask, yes, prompt service will suck if you don't spend the cash. Hey, it's that or lose the techies they've already got...


Disclaimer: Before you believe anything I write, remember that in the back of my mind my retirement depends on my company's stock doing well over the next 20-30 years.

Hourly or Salary (2)

Mandomania (151423) | more than 13 years ago | (#698547)

I didn't catch if you folks are getting paid hourly or if you're salaried employees. I worked at an ISP where the emergency pager was rotated around the staff (someone new got it every two weeks), and if the pager went off after hours the pager person was compensated for their time. Of course, we were all hourly employees so it was a bit easier.

At my last job (not the aforementioned ISP), our sysadmins had a rotating on-call schedule, so no one person was stuck answering all the "Server/Router Down" phone calls all the time. Usually, if someone was really stuck working late after hours, she would simply come in a few hours late the next day. It was a pretty good system: abusable, but with a small enough group and a decent manager, definitely workable.

In any case, your best bet is to sit down and talk with your manager and voice your concerns. Make your points calmly, yet firm. Let her know that you feel the volume of work is going to increase dramatically and that there should be a similar increase in compensation. Good luck.


Use the right incentives to keep calls down (1)

jerryasher (151512) | more than 13 years ago | (#698548)

Well they should pay you more or you should quit.

But assuming they won't and you can't, try to put incentives in place to keep RTFM calls down.

If you get a question that you find has already been answered in the company intranet, than you should get paid $30 and that $30 comes from the other person's department.

the answer is, they pay what they want. (1)

louissypher (155011) | more than 13 years ago | (#698553)

Simple answer...the company pays what they want, if it is not enough, quit.

Pay peanuts, get... (1)

obscurity (156348) | more than 13 years ago | (#698554)

If I were you, I'd leave. Now.

I'm not sure what the exchange rate is, but I'm in the UK and here is what
I get paid for callout: 200ukp for carrying the mobile around for a week.
If I get called, I get paid for the time I spend solving the problem
(however I solve it - over the 'phone or onsite) at 1.75 times my normal
hourly rate, with a minimum of one hour per call, even if sort it out in 5
minutes. Also, for every hour after midnight that I spend on a call, I get
an hour off in leiu the next day - so if I get a call at 1am, have to go
onsite, and don't get back till 4am, I can come in 3 hours late the next
(same, really) day. (Hey, I need my beauty sleep :)).

I'm lucky in that the systems I support are pretty stable, and we get an
average of 1 call every 3 or 4 months. Now, I have a pretty good deal here,
I know that. The reason for that is that when I have worked for companies
in the past that tried to screw me by trying to get me to give up my social
life for peanuts, I left. There are companies out there that value their
staff. I suggest you find one. Your life will be much better for it.

As it happens, I'm on call tonight :)

Re:$60? You're lucky. (1)

obscurity (156348) | more than 13 years ago | (#698555)

So why the fuck are you still working there? There *are* companies out
there that appreciate their staff, y'know...

What? (3)

Nidhogg (161640) | more than 13 years ago | (#698559)

Do you mean to tell me that people are actually getting paid extra for 24/7 on-call tech support?

Where the FUCK is my boss.


It's called salary (1)

justis (162375) | more than 13 years ago | (#698562)

That's what they do where I work. We're on salary with no such thing as paid overtime. We work around the situation by prioritizing calls. There are some things that will simply wait until the next business day and e-mail is usually one of those. If we can fix it over the phone or via dial in, great. If not, we'll get it first thing tommorow.

Also, the job market being what it is right now, you can always either demand better rates/pay for the oncall period with the threat of finding another job. Caveat, it's best to have another job waiting before you do this.

We outsourced. (1)

pmbuko (162438) | more than 13 years ago | (#698563)

I work for one of the USA's largest (if not THE largest) philanthropies and am part of a team responsible for maintaining servers and user workstations in each of the four time zones in the continental US. Until recently, all support calls were made to our headquarters in Maryland, but the help desk there only worked fstandard business hours.

Two months ago, to better service our user base, we outsourced our help desk support to a 24/7 company called Seneca [] that specializes in end-user support. They maintain a knowledgebase specific to our company, so the more calls they handle, the better they get at dealing with our specific users. If they can't fix a problem, they escalate it to an internal tech like me.

What's great about this company is that all the support calls are entered into a web-accessible database. Non-mission-critical calls are usually filtered out for us, and a list of currently unresolved calls is always available for us to view on the web.

Outsourceing saves all of us a headache, knowing support is always there and nobody has to have their private lives disturbed unless it's an absolute emergency.

Re:Consultants (3)

Eric Gibson (166760) | more than 13 years ago | (#698565)

One of the guys at my job when he was hired requested that an addendum be added to his sign on aggreement (he was perm) that if there was any pager duty his wage would be renegotiated. At the time, his job didn't require a pager. A few months later, his boss said "We need you to carry a pager". He responded "You need to look at my contract, my wage needs to be renegotiated." The boss got a little angry I believe and sure enough when he looked at the workers contract, there it was. The nasty addendum he had forgotten. Long story short, he didn't have to carry a pager.

I thought that was a cool idea.

How it worked out well.... (1)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 13 years ago | (#698567)

At my last job, the support staff were expected to perform well when on-call. That meant that they were required to respond within 15 minutes, which basically tied them to their homes.

However, the compensation was good. They received a nominal hourly rate just for carrying the pager, and if paged, they received overtime pay for it. There was also a "minimum charge time" of an hour - so if they got a five-minute call, they were still payed an hour's worth for the trouble of getting up at 3 AM.


Re:My Experience (1)

scrye (169108) | more than 13 years ago | (#698568)

Our hours of operation were 24/7. even if you were in the office, you got the oncall rate. 'Twas a great system.

My Experience (5)

scrye (169108) | more than 13 years ago | (#698569)

when i worked at an ISP, we had the duty pager as well. We all got paid an hourly rate based on our salary*1.5. I feel this was a great way of doing it, and made people not feel so angry about being on call.

Re:It's called salary (1)

[AraGorn] (178502) | more than 13 years ago | (#698576)

I work in a Hospital IT department that sounds similar to the original poster and I agree with you that many things are mission critical and cannot wait but many are not: e-mail first off, Internet, Word and Excel (at least here), among others.. These I would assume are the ones that can "wait until morning" at least that's how we work it here..

we get paid for the week based on 28 call units (4 a day) for a week of oncall time and get paid roughly $9 a unit (~$250/callweek) plus mileage and overtime pay if we have to work onsite.


Compensation at my former employer (2)

xjosh (181149) | more than 13 years ago | (#698580)

At a former employer, I had similar after-hours responsibilities. I was on a pager rotation (1 week every 7). I was paid as follows:

$60 for each complete week on-call

Regular overtime for each phone call fielded, minimum one hour.

Regular overtime for on-site visits, minimum four hours.

Regular overtime means 1.5 regular rate after hours, double between 11pm-7am, double on Sundays and holidays.

Not a bad deal, really.

Re:On call = automatic overtime (1)

Tri0de (182282) | more than 13 years ago | (#698582)

I get one hours pay if paged, minimum 2 hours if I have to go in.

Utilize minimum call in times. (1)

krystal_blade (188089) | more than 13 years ago | (#698584)

Beleive it or not, the Civil Service sector came up with the perfect way to prevent frivelous call-ins for standby personnel. A minimum duration call in.

It works something like this. Joe B. has the standby pager, and is sitting at home. Suddenly he gets paged, with some secretaries email down. "Email is out all over!!!". Joe comes into work, kicks the exchange servers once or twice, and everything works fine. Actual time elapsed? 25 min. driving time, 15 min work time. Total= 40 minutes.

Joe B. would get paid for two hours worth of work at time and a half, however, because it was after hours, and because of the minimum call in.

This does one of two things. Bean counters hate losing beans to time and a half call ins. And, they hate seeing time cards that don't add up mathematically. This pisses them off, who complain up the chain.

Higher ups in the company suddenly notice that with all these time and a half call ins, you're making more money than them. Since you can now afford that expensive new car that they can't, they get pissed.

Pretty soon, memo's will be dispatched throughout the office dictating that the once deemed priority is no longer such a priority, and that anyone calling in a frivelous call will get strung from their genitals outside the third floor window.


Yet another item that may be of use to you comes from the military. (This is what I use...)

It's called a job priority assignment worksheet, and it's simple as hell to use.

First, type up all the system types you folks work on. (EG Workstation, Life Support, etc) Assign it a priority status starting with 1 being the highest down to 3. (At this point, the military also uses an alphabetical identifier. 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, etc...)

List all the equipment systems along with what you think is the appropriate priority. Then, assign those priorities "response times."

For instance, you'd have to drop all and run for a priority 1A outage, but anything 2B or lower can wait until the next shift. The extra numbers give a bit of lee-way in which jobs are higher on the scale than others.

If you get 2 calls in one night, and the first one is a 3B, and the second one is a 2B, you fix the 2B first the next day.

Oh, and you need someone high up in the company to hack off on this too, so it's not your ass when you tell a customer "tough".

Hope it helps.


On call = automatic overtime (1)

COBOL/MVS (196516) | more than 13 years ago | (#698588)

I am a contract programmer who has had to carry the cell phone before. My client let me bill an additional 4 hours over the 2-week period I carried it. Plus, my company also gave me additional pay while I had it ($8/weekend day and $4/weekday). It isn't much more, but it was nice to get both the overtime and the extra from my company.

nothing extra! (1)

humanasset (206242) | more than 13 years ago | (#698596)

My company, for one, does not pay extra for being "on call". That means anyone can choose to call you at any hour of the day or night. It is what is generally expected. I suspect it is a rather common situation these days.

Former support person (1)

caver (208346) | more than 13 years ago | (#698597)

I used to do support for Delta Airlines and we billed them hourly. You started the clock when the pager went off. If it required an on site visit, the clock didn't stop till you arrived home. All calls were billed at a minimum of 1 hour.

Comp. (1)

august70 (209266) | more than 13 years ago | (#698601)

I was the only responsible admin at my last job, a start-up that was sold out. If our servers were down after hours or other issues I would just come in when I felt like it or not (depending how long the issues took to resolve) the next day.

Granted I was salary but the company understood this.
The One vacation I took while working for them, I got paged ( the other admin was screwing off somewhere) so when I got backed I billed @ $100/hour with no arguments.

$8 per 8 hour shift (1)

fragbait (209346) | more than 13 years ago | (#698602)

On the days (weekday or weekend) we have to monitor the production system, we get $8 per 8 hour shift and your are on-call for a 24 hour period. On weekdays, we get paid for 2 shifts but on weekend days we get paid for 3. The number of on-call days varies. For this month I will have been on call for 4 weekdays and 2 weekend days over the entire month which translates to 14 shifts at $8 which is an extra $112 for the month. Not bad compared to the previous job where we were on-call 24/7 and got no extra pay.


Grizzled old Mainframer chimes in (1)

stnls_steel_mouse (210272) | more than 13 years ago | (#698603)

When I was a mere programmer analyst, I was on call 24/7 for five years straight with no extra compensation. (really!)

Quit whining

(BTW I had to walk to the computer room 10 miles through the snow)

Seriously, I am pretty surprised to see any compensation being thrown at people for this. Most I have usually seen is comp-time. Most mainframe shops I have seen, even as a consultant, the oncall goes with the turf, BUT we had control of the apps that we were on call for. Pretty good incentive to clean up code.

I guess I will have to kick more if asked to be oncall.

Having been there... (2)

ScratchDot (212666) | more than 13 years ago | (#698605)

While working in the IT dept. of a small regional hospital we were on the same call-time arrangement as the nursing staff. You got normal time if you were called in, and a small amount for having to be on-call. The best part was it was a pretty easy sell to the CFO.

fair? (1)

jfk3 (215200) | more than 13 years ago | (#698606)

I wouldn't consider anything but overtime pay fair. But I'm used to being paid as a consultant. I've seen lots of employees that will do ridiculous amounts of work for free. I don't think this is a clear fair/not fair issue. It's always a poker game and if you go to far in what you try to get away with, you may get burned.

Re:The way to compensate fairly... (1)

TWX_the_Linux_Zealot (227666) | more than 13 years ago | (#698610)

I think that where I work uses a policy like that, and it does work. I think they pay a little more for weekends, something like $250 for each full weekend day, and the $100 for Fri at 5:00 to 11:59 combined with Mon 12:00 AM to 8:00 AM...

On Call Support (1)

pillar (227782) | more than 13 years ago | (#698611)

I have worked at several places that require me to do after hours 24x7 support. Most gave some sort of compensation, be it % of salary, hourly rate, currently I work network and unix security and this obvoiusly requires 24x7 support. I split it with another 2 co-workers, and for compensation we usually get comp time. Money is good, but what use is it if you don't have time to spend it? We take a 1:1 for every minute. I have taken comp time and let it build up and used it as a week's vacation, not even touching my vacation time. Comp time is very nice.

On Call Pay (1)

psychopenguin (228012) | more than 13 years ago | (#698612)

Fortunately, I'm not at a job where I'm on call anymore, but I used to work for a hospital as a Network Manager, and we had "On Call Pay" there. I was salary aside from that, and the way it worked was that I got $0.82/hour for every hour that was not a "normal business hour". So, since I was salary, it's assumed that I'm being paid my normal pay for being there 8-5 monday-friday (don't I wish it were that little). So they total up the number of hours NOT included in that time and multiply by .82 = additional on call pay. I was the only Network person, so I always got it, but the PC techs switched off from week to week, and whoever had the pager, got the pay for that week. Hope this helps!

Hasn't been mentioned, outsourcing. (1)

t0qer (230538) | more than 13 years ago | (#698614)

We ran into the same problem over at my company, then we decided to outsource everything except for internal 9-5 support. Check out . They're a pretty large scale Exchange server outsourcing shop, they take care of all the account creation, backups, restore s, ect.

For backups try connected online backup. No complaints from my users yet!


$60?? (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 13 years ago | (#698616)

$60? Are you serious? No way. That's pretty pathetic. One way to do it is just to offer to pay an on-call person a double hourly rate for all-on call hours he/she works. That way, the management sees it in the bottom line, and you'll definately find people who wouldn't mind being on-call.

But is it worth it? (5)

Anne Marie (239347) | more than 13 years ago | (#698618)

I've held many jobs, but I will never work for a company where I have to be on call. No incremental salary compensates for the lost family time and lost personal time. I work for a living, yes, but I'm doing precisely that: working for a living, not working as my life. Living comes afterwards, at the end of the day, when I can go home and see the smiling faces of my loved ones and feel content about my small place in the universe.

It's like with leasing a home: I own my house because it's important enough to me that I want full control of it. It's the same with one's occupation: I don't want to lease my life; I want it to be my own life, and I don't want to have to answer to my boss unexpectedly at all hours of the day and night. It pains me to see so many people of my generation taking up the yoke of servile labor our grandparents and great grandparents fought so hard to unload. eighty-hour work weeks? Previous generations fought tooth and nail to get a ten-hour workday, and we undo their efforts in one fell swoop.

Re:Inform them of the tradeoffs, and then get your (3)

jeepmeister (241971) | more than 13 years ago | (#698623)

Here, here. I work for a similar healthcare outfit which does not compensate at all for on-call pager duty after hours. The management seems to think we do on-call because we like it. We don't like it. Many engineers in my group have taken their talents elsewhere and cited 7 days of on-call in a highly stressful environment every four to six months without compensation as an important factor in their decision to leave the company. Unfortunately, management seems to be indifferent to the situation in spite of the high cost of replacing these skilled and knowledgeable individuals. The truth is, pointy haired managers simply do not have a grasp of the issues regarding remedial maintenance support. Their expectation is based on uptime percentages devoid of the human cost to acheive those numbers. This is a losing battle on the technical end. The pointy hairs seem to clearly grasp the concept of time in the opposing direction however. When negotiating on-call compensation, suggest time off on a 1:1 ratio for on-call time on and see how fast they recognize the value of worktime.

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