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On call

(3 Posts)
toni74 Fri 11-Nov-16 14:23:21

It's recently been suggested that the team I work for will be offering an on call (out of hours) service. This will be in addition to our normal hours.

I'm interested to know if such a change can be made to our roles and what if any compensation we could expect (additional pay or time off?) and what this covers. For example are you paid for being on call or paid if you respond to an issue?

The team I work for are paid for our time. I'm interested if anyone else has been in the same situation and how you handled such a change.

EBearhug Fri 11-Nov-16 20:35:37

I think as a general rule, changes can't be made to your terms and conditions without consultation and agreement, but other people with more knowledge could confirm that - there may well be information online, if you google and find the ACAS website or similar.

I've had on-call for most of my IT career. However, I've known that at the start of the job, and it's also a question I ask about in interview, because covering one week in every 8 and getting only one or two calls in a week is massively different from getting one or two calls a night in a week every 4 weeks, as examples, and it could make the difference between me accepting a job offer or not.

Things I would want to know:
* How often will I be on-call?
* What compensation will there be?
* What will the expectations be in terms of response times?
* Will the company provide extra equipment (e.g. mobile phone, laptop) for on-call purposes?
* Will I have all the required systems access? (This will usually be yes these days, but it certainly wasn't something you could take for granted 20 years ago.)
* How will time etc be recorded?
* What is the process if I need to escalate to a higher level?
* How will problems be recorded? What processes will there be for making sure repetitive problems are avoided, and so on?
* What about compensating time? If you've spent a number of hours in the night working, are you still expected to be at your desk at 9am?

When it comes to payment, there are different ways it can happen.

Currently, our team has a pot of £10000 a year (which hasn't changed for years), and it's split between everyone in the rota. So if there's 4 of you, it's an extra £2500 a year, if there's 10 of you, it would be an extra £1000, but that balances out with being on-call far less often. If we actually get called, you can claim for time worked once it's over 30 minutes.

Previously, I have been paid in a way that I think is more preferable. You get paid a set rate for being on-call for one shift, which is more at weekends and more again on bank-holidays - that's just for being on-call. Then it was £5 each time you were called, and then time (time and a half or double time) for any time you actually worked. This was a much better method, because you actually got paid for what you did, and if someone was saving for a house or new car or something, it was much easier to get swaps, rather than the current method, where there's nothing in it for someone doing a swap, other than goodwill (which does work, and it balances out - I did on-call last weekend, because someone has invited me out when I'm next scheduled to do a weekend.)

There are restrictions on where you can go - We are expected to respond within 15 minutes of receiving a call and to actually log on within 30 minutes. If you don't respond within 15 minutes, they are meant to call again, and if you fail to respond to two calls, they are meant to escalate to management. This means you need to be somewhere with a mobile phone signal (i.e. not where my cousins live, nor my sister who live in remote bits of the country, but I've been to friends who do), and be able to log on with your laptop. I have taken my laptop to a party, and then ended up having to log on. That was fun... But it does mean you can do the normal Saturday morning errands round town and to the supermarket and so on, if that's the sort of thing you do. I don't risk going to the cinema or the like when on-call, though, because that almost guarantees something goes wrong... So the on-call payment is because it does restrict your life a bit. Not enough to stop me going to my evening class (I have taken a call during it, though) or exercise classes. Strictly speaking, we're also meant to be able to drive to the datacentres within half an hour, but I think only one of us actually lives that close anyway, and on the rare occasions we've not been able to handle something remotely, it hasn't been the actual on-call person who's been to site in the end, but that's all sorted out by management.

This is IT, though, and the particular business it's for makes a difference, too. Being on-call for a bank was a bit more stressy than my current employer, which is IT services (but also, technology has improved, and hardware is more resilient, so there are fewer problems than there used to be.) If you're a vet or a doctor or something like that, it would be very different (after all, people or animals can die, although some people do behave like it's worse to lose money with an IT failure...) We don't necessarily have to do a permanent fix - it depends on the problem, and you can fix it enough to get it to business hours to investigate more thoroughly, or you might agree with application support that it can wait (this is less likely to happen during the month end bill run, though.)

Occasionally we have to escalate to management, or at least inform them of a major outage - they aren't paid for this, as their salary is meant to be enough to compensate. Can't tell you whether they feel it does this. They are listed as escalation points on the on-call rota, though, so I guess they might do swaps between themselves if they're on holiday or something.

I've always been provided with a pager or mobile phone that's mine, and the number has been on the on-call information; other teams have a single phone, and it's handed over to whoever is on-call that week. I know other people who have had to give their own phone number, which wouldn't bother me if it was UK only, but I have had to call the USA and HK and places when I've been on-call, and I'm not doing that at my own expense!

We do currently do a full week on-call, but I have also been on rotas where it's split: Monday - Thursday, and Friday - Sunday. Sometimes when we've done swaps, it'll be for a single night, or the weekend - it doesn't really matter, as long as we're all happy, and the rota is updated so the people who handle the alarms know who to call.

If we just get one fairly easy call, we'd be expected in as normal the next day, but if it's one which takes hours, or you get a lot of calls in a night, it's okay to go in late. The working time directive does entitle you to 11 hours consecutive rest between work shifts - I've never quite worked out how on-call fits with that, but the night I fell asleep onto my keyboard, I knew I wasn't safe to drive in, and needed to sleep, but you are allowed some sort of compensatory rest, I think.

So you need to find out what the proposal to go on call will really mean for you, but this might give you some things to think about.

toni74 Fri 11-Nov-16 21:24:19

Thankyou Ebearhug that's given me plenty to think about especially expectations about being back in work the next day.

The impression I get at the moment is, they aren't prepared to pay for us to be on call, there only prepared to pay us if we are called to deal with something...but I'll follow that up...

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