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Is my on-call pay competitive?

This week, a reader asks about on-call compensation. What is the minimum an employee should receive for on-call pay, and how long should the minimum shift be for someone who is called in? How can you tell whether your on-call pay is competitive?

Q. I have researched all over about what kind of compensation you should get for being on call, but have found nothing. Right now I get paid for three extra hours each week for being on call Monday through Sunday from 7pm to 5am. When I get called in, I am guaranteed a minimum of two hours' pay. When I was employed at another company I was on call for a week and I got paid two hours on the hour after my regular work day (16 hours), and that was for seven days. When I got called in I got paid for four hours automatically.

This seems like a big difference. I would like some information to present to my manager and vice president of my department, then my company. I feel I deserve to get paid more than just three extra hours after working 70 extra hours a week.

A. There is no standard practice for on-call pay. Companies generally try to offer on-call pay that is competitive within their industry and local market. Before you speak to the VP of your department, talk to your HR department. Ask the head of HR or your compensation department what the going on-call rate is for your local area, and your competitors. Most HR departments participate in local surveys that collect data on on-call pay, so your department is better able to answer your questions for you.

I know it is easier to research information on your own, but it is one of the roles of your HR department to help the company offer competitive salaries to its employees. It could be that your previous company had a more aggressive strategy for its on-call pay program than your current company. Let your HR department help you determine whether this is the case.

- Erisa Ojimba, Certified Compensation Professional

Copyright 2000-2004 ©, Inc.

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