FAQ: On-Call Staff Program

April 4, 2019

     You’re considering an on-call program. Maybe your business is experiencing record absenteeism, and your best employees are burning out when filling gaps. Maybe overtime is an issue. Or maybe you see the benefit of having on-call staff to quickly scale-up and win new business whenever the opportunity arises.

But you are - and should be - skeptical. After all, there’s a bunch of very negative media coverage about on-call programs, and certain types of on-call programs lead to penalties: In California, for example, a poorly designed program can lead to penalties that equate to two hours of wages (even if an employee doesn’t physically show up to work).

Here we’ve gathered four key questions about on-call forces that understandably skeptical employers ask. Anything we should add? Feel free to ask - info@syrg.app

Why not just use our existing employees?

      There are two main issues with using current employees as on-call workers: Employee preferences and costs.

Today, employees are inundated with requests to pick up more work. They get calls from supervisors begging them to cancel their plans (family time isn’t that important, right?) to come back and work another shift because someone called out.

It’s true, your workers often do want extra work - but they want shifts that meet their availability, instead of always being pressured into “taking one for the team” by an already stressed supervisor.

If your supervisors are currently pressuring existing employees to stay longer and pick up shifts on their days off, you’ll find your best, most reliable employees are burning out and quitting. Many employees simply want predictability and stability in their schedules, and imposing extra shifts wreaks havoc on their personal lives. Ask them: “Would you rather keep getting asked to work more shifts, or just keep a standard schedule?” You’ll find most prefer the former.

The second reason why using current employees as on-call workers is a bad idea is quite simple: This imposes extra costs that hurt your bottom-line. So many shift changes occur in many absence-prone businesses that even part-time employees start getting overtime.

Plus, part-time employees often become benefit-eligible, and business owners wind up paying penalties or unexpected benefit costs.

(Want to calculate the costs of your current system? We’ve built a free calculator here.)

Why not just use temps or 1099 “on-demand” workers?

     Temps and 1099 workers are the Wild West of staffing solutions. They are unpredictable, potentially costly, and rarely the ideal or desired solution for your business or your customers. While these types of workers can get the job done in a real pinch, there are a number of considerations to make before you rely too heavily on temps or 1099 workers.

It is important to mention what sets these types of workers apart in the first place: They are, by definition, external to your organization. This means they are initially untrained and likely ill-equipped to truly meet your needs. While they may offer the convenience of being on-demand staff, there is always the risk that they haven’t a clue what they are doing. Plus, you’re relying on some third-party to vet staff who are representing your business to your customers.

That said, if you are truly excited about the power and convenience of on-demand staffing, don’t forget on-call systems can achieve that same level of flexibility internally, with the employees you know and trust.

And for many bigger businesses, it’s not clear that 1099 “on-demand” workers are legal. At best, using these systems veers towards the grey area of the law: For many types of work, there’s no legal justification for workers being employed as independent contractors, so the question is simply whether regulators will take action.

It’s a testament to how challenging today’s labor market is, however, that businesses who’ve never used temps or 1099 contractors are now resorting to using them.

In our humble opinion, on-call delivers all the benefits of temp and on-demand staffing programs, without the downsides.

Why not just hire more employees?

      If only it was this simple! Most employers are constantly hiring, so the prospect of just hiring more employees is an “obvious” solution that just doesn’t work.

What about my union?

      Even unionized workplaces can benefit from on-call staff. We’ve worked with unions who offer their own members opportunities to pick up work as on-call staff - contacted, of course, in order of seniority.

After all, unions would strongly prefer offering on-call opportunities to their members rather than watching some external non-union temp workers get the gig.

If you’re still not convinced or have additional questions you’d like us to answer, let us convince you! info@syrg.app

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