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When should on-call employees be paid for their time?

Various industries use on-call employees to fill gaps in staffing needs. Being an on-call employee might seem like a pretty sweet deal. You can sit around and wait to see if you are going to get called in to work. After all, if your employer wants you to wait around, you'll get paid, right?

The answer to this question is that only some on-call employees will get paid for their time. There are several points that can help to determine whether the period you are on-call will be paid or unpaid. In some instances, you might have to fight for your rightful on-call pay. Here are some points you need to know about this work status:

How fast do you have to report?

Some employers have a requirement for how fast an employee needs to report when they are called. Short periods, such as requiring employees to be no more than five minutes away, might mean that you need to be paid for your time on call. Longer response times, such as having to call in within 30 minutes, aren't typically considered restrictive and might not necessitate pay. Interestingly, you might be eligible for pay if your employer requires that you stay in one location, such as at home, during the on-call shift.

What do you have to wear?

If you are told to wear your uniform when you are on-call, you should likely be paid. Having to wear a uniform during an on-call shift signifies that the employer is restricting you during the time. This can make it difficult to use the time however you please, which is one of the considerations when you try to figure out if you need to be paid.

How often are you going to be called?

Sometimes, being on-call means that you are working more than you aren't. Emergency medical technicians, for example, spend long shifts on-call but they might not be called at all during that time or they might be called constantly. It just depends on the number of 911 calls that come in. More frequent calls might mean that these individuals are due money for the very busy on-calls shifts.

Essentially, the more freedom you have while you are on-call, the less likely you are to be paid. If you think that there is a discrepancy in your on-call time pay, you might opt to take legal action. This may help you to get the pay that you are due for the hours that you were under your employer's control but not actually at work.

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