How should we calculate paid ‘on-call’ time?

Q. We have a maintenance employee who we will soon put “on call” for various shifts—occasionally at night—to fix equipment. How should we handle his on-call pay?

A. Whether on-call time is considered hours worked or compensable time is very fact specific. The Fair Labor Standards Act governs the rules.

Generally, this on-call pay depends on the amount of freedom the employee has while on call. If the employee is “engaged to wait,” then he or she must be paid for all the time he or she is on call. However, if the employee is only “waiting to be engaged,” then the time spent on-call is not considered hours worked.

For example, if on-call employees must remain on the employer’s premises or otherwise cannot use the time for their own purposes, they would be engaged to wait. They must be paid. If, on the other hand, they don’t have excessive geographic restrictions and are only required to respond to a call within a reasonable amount of time, the employees would be waiting to be engaged.

For additional information, visit

Payroll Handbook D