Keeping it fair
Part of this is just plain fairness. And part of it bumps into your local laws. Very often, there are no clear rules. But also very often, there are decisions by judges that become standards for other judges to use when they make decisions.
Now, just to keep it complicated, simply requiring someone to be reachable by phone is NOT considered to be restricting enough to require pay. So if you don't say anything about limiting activities such as travel, then simply being available by phone is not required to be a paid event.
If you don't have an RMM that can send out an alert, then you may have to require someone to check the service board once an hour. Now we're back into the scale discussion. How much does this limit their time, especially when no work comes in?
As a general rule, the US Fair Labor Standards Act does not require that "exempt" or salaried employees be compensated for on-call duty. Thus the entire discussion applies to only hourly employees.
For a good time, check out www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-flsa.htm [Insert your favorite lawyer joke or comment here].
Enough speculation and legalese. Here's some practical advice to consider when you formulate your on-call policy.
1. Let fairness be your guide
Be reasonable with your employees and they will be reasonable with you. This is particularly true if your company is very small. The last thing you need is some smouldering resentment because someone once had to work an hour in the middle of the night.
2. If feasible, you should rotate on-call assignments among managers and other salaried employees
Assuming that you really get very few after-hours calls or alerts, this is just a very minor limitation and very reasonable for their slightly higher compensation. Note that the rest of the suggestions here will help make this even less of an annoyance.
3. For hourly employees, set a reasonable compensation
For example, pay them time-and-a-half for any hours outside their regular work hours. And pay a minimum of one hour or two hours for work that actually has to be done.
4. Set a long response time in your service agreement
For example, if you have a three-hour response time, then your employee has lots of freedom. In three hours your employee can finish watching a kid's soccer game or drive back from the lake.
And remember that "responding" to an alert might not really require any work. If the employee just has to acknowledge the ticket and assign it to the team at your outsourced back-office tech support, that's a three-minute task. It's only when they have to sit down at their computer and log into a client machine, or drive to the client office, that serious labor takes place.
5. Consider a response time in Business Hours
If you say you'll respond within three business hours, then a call at 6:01PM does not need to be acknowledged until 11:01AM the next day. (Of course you'll respond at 8:05 AM.) This eliminates after-hours on-call work altogether.
You might not be comfortable with that, but you can get used to it. As I've said before, 99% of the after-hours work you do is because you've decided to do it, not because you really have to.
We have used a business hours response time policy since about 2005. It has never been an issue. We've had a few incidents in which someone has sent nagging emails and voice mails until we called them back. Then we mention that our after-hours rate is $300/hr. Too bad we don't charge a "bugging me after hours" fee.
6. If you have hourly employees on call, give them some minimal reward for being on call even if there are no calls
This could be a $25 gift card or something similar. You don't have to think of this as "pay" but more of a token of appreciation. This can go a long way to let employees know that you acknowledge their contribution even if they don't get an hour's pay.
7. (I'm sorry about this). Write up your very reasonable, well-thought-out policy and have it reviewed by a lawyer
Once she blesses it, you're good to go.
I know a lot of this is a pain in the neck. But it is definitely worth the time and effort. After all, once you have a good workable policy, you'll be able to sleep at night without your phone on!
Three takeaways from this blog:
• Create a simple after-hours on-call monitoring policy that works within the culture of your company.
• Place a premium on fairness to your employees and they will perform excellently.
• Consider measuring your response time in “business hours” – except for true Priority 1 emergencies.
(Used with permission of Karl W. Palachuk, SmallBizThoughts.com)