On-Call Time (On-Call Pay)


The term on-call time refers to a requirement whereby employees must remain at their work location, or stay home, so they can be quickly reached and asked to work.  An employee on-call may be required to provide their employer with a telephone number or leave a message indicating where they can be reached.


Employees may be asked to remain on-call as part of their normal responsibilities, or they may be asked to remain on-call during emergencies.  Placing an employee on-call allows employers to quickly reach an employee when emergent work arises.

Generally, when an employee is asked to remain on-call at their work location, or one of their employer's work locations, they are entitled to on-call pay.  This is sometimes referred to as working while on-call.

Alternatively, an employee may be asked to remain at home, or leave their supervisor with a number where they can be reached.  This is referred to as "not working while on-call."  The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to compensate employees when they are not working on-call.  Whether or not an employee is entitled to on-call pay when not working depends on several factors:

  • A collective bargaining agreement may specify the conditions under which employers are required to pay an employee on-call pay.
  • The constraints placed on the employee while they are "not working while on-call."  Generally, the Department of Labor's wage and Hour Division provides the following guidance to employers:  If an employee is required to remain so close to work that they cannot use the time for their own purposes, then this time should be considered as compensable.

Companies are permitted to provide compensation beyond that required by law.  If the legality of a company's pay policy is called into question, the best course of action is to consult with an experienced labor attorney.

Related Terms

decrease in pay, travel time, waiting time, sleep time, pay in lieu of notice, personal time, fatigue and delay