No Compensation for out of Hours Support

Hi. I work for a fairly large digital team in a fairly large Australian company. They have a policy of asking team members to work out of hours support (6am - 9am then 5pm -10pm) without any compensation unless there is an actual incident to respond to, in which case you get time in lieu for the amount of time worked.

My question is, if you are on call and expected to be ready to respond to an incident and have access to a computer, should that be counted as paid work time?

What are other people's experience with this kind of thing?

EDIT:

Just to clarify with an example:

Let's say I am on support from 6am to 9am but there are no incidents, I get no time in lieu, I get nothing. But, my employer is expecting me to have my phone on and have access to a computer for those 3 hours so that I'm ready to respond. I cant leave the house for example.

If there is an incident to respond to, lets say it takes an hour, then i get time in lieu for that hour ONLY not the full 3 hours I was waiting for an incident to occur.

Comments

  • +1

    if you are getting time off in lieu, you shouldn't be paid for it? Are you getting a on call allowance or something too?

    • No, so lets say I'm on call from 6am to 9am and there is no incident, i get nothing. So I'm expected to still be available and have a computer with me but I may not have to respond to an incident.

      If there is an incident I need to respond to that takes me an hour to deal with, then I get TIL for that hour, but not the rest of the time I was on call.

      Does that make sense?

  • +20

    Not picking on your spelling (I am far from a perfect speller) but just wanted to point out that time in Lou is very different from time in lieu.
    As a person named Lou……

    • +1

      Thanks

    • +1

      lol )

      • Lough ou lou!

  • +1

    If you're on call, then no. If you are answering/providing support, then probably yes. It will depend on your contract though.

    Are you on an award wage, or above the award? Because sometimes your contract takes into account extra hours/requirements (such as being on call) into the above award wage. However your total wage should not fall below the award for the hours you actually work.

    A simple example may be: if your award is $20 per hour and you've worked 42 hours, then the minimum you should get is $840. But if you actually get paid for 38 hours at $25 (including reasonable overtime), then you are above the award at $950. As I said, it depends on the contract.

    • There isn't an award as far as I'm aware, some are full time and some are contractors. I'll take a look at my contract to see if it covers overtime or extra hours, but I guess my problem is the company does not classify these hours as work hours, which I don't think is right.

  • +6

    Is your employer telling you to be ready in case there is an accident. If there is an accident, you respond and get time in lieu, if nothing happens you don't get anything?

    In the past I was in a similar situation, was not paid but was expected to pick up the phone, so I installed an answering machine.

    My view is: If the employer is asking you to stay home to be ready for a phone call, then there should be some compensation, or if there is no compensation the employer cannot expect you to be in ready state.

    • Yes that is essentially the scenrio. We may get a call and need to be in a 'ready state'. Can't leave the house (need access to computer) or drink etc.

  • +1

    They have a policy of asking team members to work out of hours

    My question is, if you are on call and expected to be ready to respond to an incident and have access to a computer, should that be counted as paid work time?

    You seem to be asking two different questions here.

    First you ask if you are being asked to work out of hours and when you do, you get time off in lieu. Then you ask if you should be paid for when oncall?

    Being 'paid' as time off in lieu aka TOIL is perfectly normal. Most people don't like it, but its very common in the IT world and people on salary, which it sounds like you are.

    As for being on call this is never a 1:1 pay rate as if you are working, unless you get a call out. Which is sounds like if you do get called out, you get TOIL.

    As to being paid for oncall standby hours, this will depends on what your agreement says. Are you on a salary? If so, it might have been worked in to the agreement you have a oncall component that makes up your 'salary'. Time to have a read.

    Sometimes its just a 'suck it up', but standby hours are never classed as normal pay hours if this is what you are thinking.

    • Yeah I'm not complaining about TIL, I don't care if I'm compensated in time/salary either is fine. Se the example I added to clarify.

      I guess its the definition of what 'standby hours' are. I can imagine in some industries you are on stand by but you can still go to the shops, gran a coffee, leave the house, basically live your life. in this scenario you are required to have access to your laptop, phone, internet connection and respond straight away. I'd consider that work time.

      • -2

        But, my employer is expecting me to have my phone on and have access to a computer for those 3 hours so that I'm ready to respond. I cant leave the house for example.

        Then how do you get to work?

        If there is an incident to respond to, lets say it takes an hour, then i get time in lieu for that hour ONLY not the full 3 hours I was waiting for an incident to occur.

        That is pretty standard.

        I guess its the definition of what 'standby hours' are.

        What does your contract/agreement say for standby hours?

        I've worked in places that this was built in to your salary, to places that have paid a allowance of ~$50/wk to be oncall and other places that have paid a $10/hr standby rate to places that pay nothing but did have a 'best effort' in answering the call.

        • Then how do you get to work?

          What do you mean? You work support from home either before or after work. You can't travel to or from work while on support.

          I'll have to double check my contract, but there are others who are full time employees (I'm a contractor) so it might be different.

          • @Montassis:

            What do you mean?

            I mean this

            You can't travel to or from work while on support.

            I know, you have said. So my question was, how do you get to work then if you have to do 6am till 9am oncall but can't leave the house so you're ready to start work at 9am?

  • +1

    Generally doctors on call get a small allowance and are only paid in full when when they're actually called in - but this is at their normal rate.

    So yes you could be entitled to a small allowance, however it would be dependent on your contract

    • Yeah I guess the difference with that scenario here though is I can't leave the house and need to be with my laptop, phone and internet connection. Maybe there is some kind of middle ground where you get 50% of the time back in lieu, plus the actual hours worked on incidents.

      • +4

        I don't know what you're getting paid BUT if you have a laptop and a smart phone then you already have an internet connection. If you have to go out then take your laptop with you. If you get a call then fire up the laptop, tether your phone and start working. I've worked at music festivals, on the side of freeways, sitting in car parks, shopping centre food courts, in the middle of weddings, the foyer of conference centres, the list is almost endless.

        If they have a backup person then they're already factoring in one person might be in hospital or not able to be contacted for some reason. Live your life and keep your gear with you when you're on call.

        • Same, I've been on my on-call weeks and just take my laptop with me when I go out with my mates or go to events. You just make sure you stay at location with an internet connection and you're gucci.

  • -3

    I think it’s fair you don’t get paid (if no incident). But saying that, TIL is a joke. Luckily my boss and I have an understanding where TIL isn’t accurately tracked but used as a baseline (eg; if I work 3 hours OT, I’ll get a day off)

  • +5

    If you are on standby/on call and are not free to use your non-working hours as you please, then you should get an allowance. It's possible that such an allowance is built into your wage/salary. Have you checked your contract/agreement?

    What would happen if you could not take a support call for a personal reason?

    • I think that's a good point. As far as I'm aware there isn't anything specifically in my contract about stand by hours. They are either work hours or not work hours. My company defines them as not work hours, which as you point out I don't think is right because I'm not free to use them as I please.

      So there is a backup person also on support, both usually respond if there is an issue so if one does have an emergency / can't respond the other should.

  • just saying:
    this is what was in my Job offer from datacom:
    "BASE SALARY
    Your base salary incorporates all additional payments, entitlements and benefits to which you may be entitled including without limitation overtime, penalty rates, shift allowances and annual leave loading."
    Means no allowance , nothing ( main reason why I did not acccept it )

    • +3

      It's all relative though right. If you're on a $250k base for desktop support and they ask you do 3 hours on call a day then you're laughing. If it's $50k then that's another story….

      Ultimately if you're not happy with your total compensation for your role then go elsewhere.
      If you're being paid minimum wage and they expect you to also be on call then take them to fairwork and look for another job.

      • +1

        kinda in the middle, was senior support/engineering role

      • That’s not really my point. I’m asking if these hours should be considered work hours or not.

        • "should be considered" - by whom ? by you - probably yes, by your current employer - looks like IS not..
          PS OP, are you perm, contractor or on a fix term ?

          • @megaalc: I'm contractor, but there are also perms, all are treated the same when it comes to working support.

            • @Montassis: Contractors typically paid on an hourly basis, speak to your agency. Normally (in my experience at least), all overtime/ on call sh..t goes to perm stuff, contractors stay hands off as it is very costly to involve them into after hours work whatever it might be… For perms it is a little bit more complicated for sure

            • @Montassis: From what I've seen working with contractors, they are expected to do the same amount of work as the perms which includes picking up oncall duties. I guess if you don't like it you can negotiate less hours or more pay for the oncall duties but they can say no and you can walk away. That's the beauty of contracting.

    • Are you paid by Datacom or the employer?

      My experience has been if you are doing free work the recruiter wants to know as you should be paid and they get a cut.

      My on call as a non contract F/T is paid a base rate for the week for the inconvenience of the possibility of a call. Phone rings then an hourly rate applies at a penalty rate.

      You should be paid an inconvenience per day rate. It’s not usually much but it’s an acknowledgement by the business this is not standard hours worked.

      • I guess you are generalising here… it would depend on employer/your agreement (formal OR informal).
        Im my current perm contract nothing says about overtime / on call ( I am not doing on call though, just overtime)
        But in our current TS system there are two additional options apart from to log normal 9-5 hours:
        1st one is called "Overtime" , to log extra time worked to get paid, second one is to log same time but as a "request TIL"
        both of them work, you just have to agree with your boss whether he/he happy with the second or the first option..

  • +3

    I don't think the OP is complaining about their work hours or their pay/salary it's more not being able to use their personal time as they wish. I value my personal time much more than extra pay so this would get right up my nose. If this wasn't part of the job when you started and there wasn't a discussion prior to implementation then I think you have a case to say you don't want to be on call.
    Maybe a call to Fair Work and get their input, either way there is a hard conversation to be had with your employer, OP.

    • Thanks, yeah I might do that. I’m interested in knowing if these hours should legally be considered work hours or not.

      • Didn't you say above that you are a contractor and not an employee?

        If that's the case then there is no legal or not, Fairwork etc. It's either in your contract or it's not.

  • +3

    That sounds absolutely terrible. No way I'd do that.

    • +1

      My thoughts exactly :)

  • +2

    I used to work at one of the big four banks and they paid a standby hourly rate of $15/hour. The rate was really for us to carry our laptop around whenever we were out and about. Even as we slept or took a dump, we got paid.

    As soon as the phone had to be answered and we had to ditch what we were doing for work, that's a minimum pay of 4 overtime hours @ 150% rate.

    • Thanks, I feel like that is reasonable, I think this is the kind of agreement we should come to.

  • Is this 52 weeks a year or do you take it in turns?

    • Turns, you may only work support one or two times a month. But still, and hour is an hour.

      • +1

        Well that doesn't sound too bad to me then. If you were permanently on call, I'd expect you to be compensated.

  • If you get called you get time in lieu … that seems fair.

    You spending time waiting might seem unfair but then you are free do do stuff at home that you would otherwise have to do anyway.

    They have a policy of asking team members to work out of hours support (6am - 9am then 5pm -10pm)

    This is not 24/7, I assume it is some kind of roster. Is everyone bummed about it, if so raise it and they can hire more resources offshore (or have WA cover later hours and NZ do mornings), just make sure offshore isn't that good they can get rid of you.

    Don't like it (money vs time) then quit. Make it a specific question during interview for your next job.

    • Yeah 'at home' - I guess my take on it is if your non-work time or your 'free time' is restricted like that then it's not really 'free time', its work time.

      • -2

        6 - 9 am you can sleep unless the phone rings

        You can also sleep from 5 - 10 pm unless the phone rings, then go out to party from 10 until 3am.

        You haven't lost the time, you just need to know how to trade it between competing demands.

  • IT support at top 50 ASX listed company get paid to be on support and if there is an issue get time in lieu. 3 years ago it was around the $250 per week to be on call. Unfortunately it was 24x 7 for the week, except when traveling to/from work and was paid as a wage. It did not cover planned upgrades in that if there was a planned upgrade and it stuffed up you did not have to be involved if it was not in your area.

  • +1

    I think this is what you came here for: It's illegal and wage theft, quit now.

    • Not really, if its an industry norm and not illegal then I'll cop it and do it. I don't want to quit, I actually really like working there otherwise, just not this policy.

      • +1

        I wouldn't say it's an industry wide norm, but there are plenty of organisations which pay for on call this way so it's completely normal. You really need to read your contract / eba / award.

        I'd add if they expect you to be next to a computer/laptop, they should provide you with a laptop so you can go out.

        I'd also make sure TIL is paid at the correct rate, for example you finish a 9-5 shift and take a call from 5-7, if normal over time is say x1.5 make sure your TIL is paid at the same rate.

  • +1

    I was on support with no pay unless there was a job. I tried to live a normal life but looked like an idiot walking into a restaurant with the company supplied Motorola International 1000. (look it up). I fully sympathise with the OPs issue.

    My current employer, until recently, had a Primary Incident Response Officer. Nightly allowance plus a minimum 4 hrs overtime per phone call. It was a gravy train that was shared among a select few. Rumour has it that if things were quiet and funds were low some people (no longer employed) would get a mate to call up and report a problem.

    Just a thought OP. In the morning coverage, why not go in at 6.00am and knock out some regular work for 3 hours and leave early? Adjust your leaving time if you take a call.

  • +2

    What you are looking for is an "on call allowance". I've had them for much of my career.

    Here's a WP thread https://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/2107647

    Here's a legal analysis on the topic https://lawpath.com.au/blog/do-employees-have-to-be-paid-for...

    Generally it will be 1 week at a time, shared amongst the team. Given it provides extra pay, there's usually no shortage of people wanting to do it, but sometimes some team members are too nervous or just dont care about the extra money and would prefer the freedom, so you may rotate between a subset of you

    • Cheers, great info

  • +1

    I wonder whether those who said OP isn't entitled to compensation have ever done on call work before.

    I have a biased view because I have some kind of undiagnosed phone anxiety. So I wouldn't be on call for anything less than full hourly wage.
    However, that is pretty unreasonable - to be paid a wage you should be doing something to earn that wage.

    The usual thing is to pay a token amount to be on call. I've always found that there are enough people without "phone anxiety" that appreciate the bonus cash to gladly take my turn as well.

    Operating 2 shifts is another way to extend support and give employees more flexibility. Someone would likely appreciate starting at 6, someone else would prob be happy to do an afternoon shift and finish at 10pm.

    I am really over companies screwing employees. If we keep going in this direction, we'll end up back with kids working in coal mines.

  • If you were employed on a contract that specified you would have to be on-call out of business hours, then your current pay should be covering your inconvenience. If not, it is reasonable to expect an on-call allowance, especially if you are supposed to meet particular criteria, such as having a computer with you, phone and network access, response time, etc. When I used to do software support, I was paid a generous allowance, but it also covered any work (ie my time) done in response to a support call.

  • +1

    I can totaly understand you. I am an IT professional and once worked for a company where I was on-call from 6pm till 8am for a week every 4th or 3rd week. They gave time in lieu only for actual time you spent working. Many times incidents happened in the middle of the night when I would spend 1-2 hours working and then couldn't fall back to sleep for many hours because of all the thoughts about the issue I was working on. And I was expected to be at work by 9-10am the next day. I had to stay at home on weekends. No hiking, no gym, no quality family time. It significantly affected my personal life. It was a nightmare! I quit that job as soon as a could.
    I believe it should be illegal.

  • ring the fair work commission or ideas.
    ring the state dept o industrial relations also for advice.
    may be illegal.

    • OP, don't call either of the above! Unless you want to waste your time speaking to the wrong agencies.

      If you're an employee call the Fair Work Ombudsman for advice, if you're a contractor (on an ABN) then consult your contract and/or lawyer.

  • Were you aware of this when you took the job? If so - they are offering compensation. Its called a salary. :)

    If you are a contractor (which you appear to have hidden in the comments) - you should negotiate that and specify it in your contract.

    Much of this depends on your hourly rate - if its high, then it would not be unreasonable to suggest that the high rate factors in the overnight support component.

  • +1

    If you are oncall you need to be compensated, even if you take no calls, because you need to be ready to respond to a call and plan your life around that.

    • That is a good idea - but that compensation may be already built in to the salary / contractor rate.

  • Check to see whether this pre-requisite was agreed upon within your contract.

    If not, you have no obligation in working for nothing

  • you should get something, otherwise you need to never be drunk or out enjoying life.
    should get 20% back time in Lieu otherwise say no,

  • You should be getting paid a small on-call allowance and have the choice between payment or TOIL if you respond to something.

    What happens if you don't answer the call? If you're not paid "on-call" then where is the obligation to answer imo.

    I would answer the calls if I'm not doing anything at home, but I would definately not be planning my life around it.

    Who knows, if calls start to go unanswered it may force their hand to offer the correct compensation.

  • When I was on call over 5 years ago now, from memory, the rate was $400 a week, which included any time that you might have spent actually answering calls. That was for permanent employees. Contractors got $200 a week, but then got their hourly rate if they got called.
    Interestingly, since the support guys had quite some control over how things failed - i.e. they had some clout to get changes made so things wouldn't fail overnight - and since they got only a fixed amount, it was in their interests to minimise the actual on-call hours by fixing underlying problems.
    This would be different to, say, doctors where you can't really change what you might get called about.
    So, for your three hours a day = 15 hours a week, vs what I was doing which was 224 + 516 = 128 hours a week, if I was getting $400, they you should get about $45. Or maybe less - perhaps $30
    It's not nothing, but maybe your contract pays you $30 a week more to be on call?

  • I’ve been in a similar situation, and as multiple other commenters have pointed out, it is quite common to receive an “on-call allowance” to compensate you for the inconvenience. What you probably didn’t know is that this allowance is also quite negotiable so if you band together to discuss what you think is fair, and also cite what other similar companies are doing you could negotiate a better outcome.
    Also you shouldn’t be forced to stay at home. Having a phone and access to internet should be sufficient. Many times I would go out and leave the laptop in the car. When the phone rang I would try to resolve it just on the phone. If it was a more complicated matter I would then grab the computer. Obviously the nature of your role dictates what will and won’t work

  • I get paid $450 to be on-call 1 week per month (IT security). Sometimes I go weeks without a call, whilst others can get busy if systems go down.

    Personally I wouldn’t do it unless there was $ involved, due to the aforementioned issues (breaks rest cycle, need to available on weekends, have laptop handy for use, etc.).

  • Purely from the point of a transaction relationship between the company and I, my time for pay, I do not think it is fair. I cannot ask a chef to come, but he only gets paid if someone ask him to cook. He gets paid be there.

    This is only one or twice a month, I can overlook that as goodwill for the company. If it is twice a month, that 6 hours in addition.
    Goodwill is reciprocal. If they treat me transactionally, i wont accept this. If they are a good company to work for, understanding and cut me slack, I would happily do it for them.

    • Thats my thinking too.

      I could make a tidy profit running a shop where I pay my staff only when they are directly putting something in a bag, taking money, cleaning. If they're just available in case a customer needs service, no that's not working, that's not paid.

      "But this requires the worker to be in the shop the whole day, mostly unpaid".

      • "I do not require them to be in the shop. But they must respond to the request of any customer in the shop within seconds".

      Maps decently into OPs situation.

  • Are you on a salary or hourly rate?

    I've been on call for my entire software career and what you mentioned has been the norm. I'm on call 24/7 for a week at a time and just expected to have my laptop and internet access for the whole week. Get time in lieu for how long the incident lasts, if not just standard work week. When shit breaks and company can't make money, imo I think it's my job to make sure systems are up to keep everything working.

  • have a look at your employment contract and see if your pay already included this component.

  • I work in government and do 24/7 support. We get an on-call allowance for each day (with higher rates on weekends / public holidays) but in my opinion it is not that great. The real money is when people call which is quite rare. But being oncall does affect your everyday life (can't really escape work or sleep peacefully)…

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