Hiring On-Call Employees

Waiting time, on-call time and exempt vs. hourly. When employees are not technically “working,” do you still need to pay them? Business can be unpredictable. You never know when you’ll need all your employees for a job, or when all your employees will be sitting idle.

While just-in-time staffing solutions can help you address the ebb and flow of business, they also pose certain challenges. For instance, when employees are “on call,” do they need to be paid? How do overtime rules apply?

Here is what you need to know to maximize the benefit of on-call employees without draining your payroll budget.

When do employees get paid?

The U.S. Department of Labor defines “employ” as “to suffer or permit to work.” But what does that mean? Luckily, the Department of Labor also provides some guidelines as to when an employee is “working,” and thus needs to be paid.

Waiting time

Sometimes, an employee is “engaged to wait.” Other times, an employee is “waiting to be engaged.” It is important to figure out which employees are doing which, because employers are expected to pay employees who are “engaged” even if that is just to wait.

For example, picture firefighters who are playing video games while waiting for an alarm. The firefighters are not working at firehouse-related tasks, but they are expected to drop everything and get to work the moment the alarm sounds.

Similarly, picture a school bus driver who is reading a book while students are touring a museum. Although the driver isn’t doing any driving-related tasks, they are expected to put the book away and get to work as soon as the kids board the bus. These workers are “engaged to wait” and need to be paid for their time.

But what about the bus driver who is reading a book at home, waiting for the bus company to call and alert them that driving is needed? It is likely that this bus driver is “waiting to be engaged” and does not need to be paid. In this case, the driver’s time is their own up until they agree to take the driving job.

On-call time

Many employees work in jobs where they are expected to be “on call.” In other words, they may pursue other tasks during a certain day or part of the day. However, if they are called to a higher-priority job, they must jump to do it. Real estate agents, surgeons and funeral directors are just three examples of workers who frequently find themselves “on call.”

Generally speaking, an employee who is required to be on the employer’s premises while “on call” must be paid for that time, even if no call comes and the worker is not doing other work-related tasks while waiting. By contrast, if the employee is required to be “on call” but permitted to do so from home, he or she may not need to be paid for this time.

While there is no hard-and-fast rule, the more limits there are on the employee’s freedom while “on call” the more likely it is they must be paid.

Why go with “just-in-time” staffing?

Working with a staffing firm can help you reap the benefits of just-in-time staffing without excess headaches. Here’s how:

  • Help plan your workforce needs. Keep core staff available to maintain normal operations, then plan for the times when particular products or seasonal production demands require additional help. With a plan in place, just-in-time staffing can help provide the support you need right when you need it.
  • Manage costs. Just-in-time staffing allows you to find the right people without impacting fixed expenses. You will always know what payroll for core operations will cost, allowing you to spend on key talent at key times without inflating your year-round staffing budget.
  • Find the right people. Specialized projects often need specialized staff—staff who languish when their specific skills are not being called into play. Maintain productivity and morale while keeping staffing costs lean by relying on just-in-time staffing to find the specialists you need when you need them.
  • Work with your staffing provider. Invite your staffing partner to tour your facility. You must also allow time to review profiles of the positions you need to fill “just-in-time” and learn more about your company’s culture. Spending just a few hours with your staffing partner can help your provider find workers who are qualified, available and a great fit for your existing staff.

Ted Kissel is President & CEO of UNITEMP Temporary Personnel. Headquartered in New Jersey, UNITEMP was founded in 1969 by Ted’s father. UNITEMP is a staffing company dedicated to providing employers with experienced and tested administrative, technical and professional temporary and contract staff. Ted began managing UNITEMP’s Meadowlands office in 1989 and became President in 1995. The company is independently owned (by Ted) and operated—and is a longtime member of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Ted is a Certified Staffing Professional CPC and Technical Services Certified TSC through the American Staffing Association. Ted can be reached @ tkissel@unitemp.net , (201) 678-3212 and www.unitemp.net.

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Meadowlands USA

Meadowlands USA

Meadowlands USA is a North Jersey regional publication that reaches people who live and work in and around the Meadowlands (including the Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Passaic County corridor), as well as visitors to our region. The blog edition is updated regularly and the print edition is released six times a year.

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