On-Call Duty Definition: Employee Rights and Legal Responsibilities

On-call duty

In some professions, employee's must be available to their employer outside regular working hours. Employees are waiting for a call from their employer or customer, so they can start working if necessary. That is called being "on call."

Being on-call generally means the employee must be available to work anytime during a specified period, usually 24 hours. The employee may have to be either physically present at the workplace or within a certain distance. Sometimes, being on-call also means that the employee must carry a beeper or cell phone so that the employer can reach them anytime.

This article provides an overview of on-call duty, including its definition, how it works, and what the law says about it. Here's everything you need to know about on-call duty.

What is on-call duty?

On-call duty is when an employee is required to be available to work on short notice. It could mean being on call during regular work hours or 24/7. During on-call duty, an employee can be at home, at work, or anywhere else and wait for a possible call. 

It is vital that he can be reached within the previously specified period and that his work can start as quickly as possible. The on-call duty can be for a specific job or task, or it can be general.

An employee on call is not working but is required to be available to work if needed. It means that the employee can be called into work at any time, even outside their regular work hours.

What are examples of On-call duty

Local firefighters react to car accidents, home fires, and other emergencies. Firefighters must wait at the fire station for calls from emergency dispatchers. In their spare time, they ensure all emergency vehicles are in good working order, clean and arrange equipment, and stock first aid kits.

General practitioners provide normal physical exams at doctors offices and clinics. It includes examining their respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, and weight. They refer more serious accidents or diseases to specialists. Off hours, GPs may take patient calls. They may analyze injuries, allergic responses, or conditions over the telephone and advise.

How does on-call service work?

management responsibility

Employers and employees can negotiate an employment contract detailing whether on-call duty is to be offered and how long it will last. If an employee has agreed to perform the on-call task, he must come to the workplace and do his duties if necessary.

On-call shifts duties happen outside of regular working hours. Typically, employees are expected to be available for work during night hours or on weekends as part of this form of on-call time. They are permitted to choose their locations.

However, they should be ready to use quickly. That means they should have their work equipment ready to go and should not be too far from the workplace in case of a call. The employer may not be held responsible if an employee cannot report for work and respond quickly.

Not only do workers get to choose their location, but they also get to decide how to spend their time and complete their work while on call. The form of a work assignment varies depending on the occupation. For example, IT experts can solve problems from home using the internet, while in-house technicians will usually have to fix defects at the business site.

Is on-call duty working time?

Yes, On-call duty may be classified as working time under specific conditions according to current case law. It is especially true when an employee is limited in the amount of free time they have during their on-call time.

For example, if employees cannot take a break or leave their workstations, this would be working time. If the on-call duty prevents an employee from pursuing other activities or spending time with family and friends, it may also be classified as working time.

How does on-call duty count as working time?

The person only the time spent on-call for work is considered working time. The time an employee is on-call but not working is considered rest time.

For example, a house technician is on call from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. He gets the call-off on Saturday at 11 a.m. due to his workload. He rushes to the plant to find out what's wrong and repair it as soon as possible. In the context of the Working Hours Act, his work task is only two hours long, regarded as working hours in terms of the Working Hours Act. You will consider the rest of the standby time rest time.

Is driving time during on-call service working time?

Working time

Usually, the time spent driving during on-call duty does not fall under working time according to labour law. There are only exceptional cases in which you would include it. When employees report to their job site within a short time frame, they cannot choose where they work. It can lead to long commutes and little free time.

For example, an in-house technician on call at the company premises which has to drive a long distance to get there within the specified personal time limit cannot freely plan his working day. In this instance, the time spent driving is counted as working time. Employees relieved from work during their on-call shift should be allowed to take a break or do other activities.

How is on-call service paid?

The payment for on-call duty depends on the contract or agreement between the employer and employee. If an employee is called upon to work during their free time, they are legally allowed wage compensation in addition to their regular salary. If the call takes place during working hours, the employee is only entitled to their regular pay.

The minimum wage also applies to on-call duty. Employees called into work outside their usual hours should be paid for the additional work according to their contract. The employee is entitled to the statutory minimum wage if the on-call time is considered working time.


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Conclusion: on-call duty as working time

On-call duty can be a form of working time. It is the case if the on-call worker is required to work during their on-call period or if they are restricted in their freedom to use their time during on-call periods.

If on-call duty is working time, then the employer must ensure that the worker gets the minimum rest periods required by law and that they are paid for their on-call time.

If you have any questions about whether your on-call duty is working time or your rights and obligations as an on-call worker, you should speak to your employer or a lawyer.

Frequently Asked Questions

In which sectors are on-call duties every day?

The most common sectors for on-call duties are emergency services, such as the police, fire brigade, and ambulance service. Other sectors include event security, alarm systems, and technical maintenance.

How often is an employee allowed to be on call?

The Working Hours Act does not stipulate the maximum number of times an employee can be on-call. However, it does state that on-call duty must not jeopardize the employees' health.

The on-call time employees can work also depends on their sector and job. For example, there are restrictions on how often an employee can be on call in the medical field.

What does on-call duty mean in the employment contract?

The on-call duty should be defined in the employment contract so that both employer and employee know what is expected. The contract should also state how on-call time is to be compensated.

Sometimes, the employer and employee can agree that the on-call time is part of the regular working hours. In this case, the employee would not be entitled to additional compensation.

Can the employer request on-call service?

In practice, it is covered by a contract of employment or a work agreement. Companies often require employees to be on call for a certain number of hours per week or month. Employees must follow company rules to perform their duties effectively.

A repeated failure of this type will result in a warning; if no improvement is seen, the individual will be terminated. On-call work is covered by co-determination if a firm has a works council.

Eveline Jacobse

Written by:

Eveline Jacobse

Eveline is an experienced HR expert with a passion for content writing in the field. She has distinguished herself by sharing her in-depth knowledge and insights into HR topics and trends through articles that are both practical and informative. Her experience and expertise in human resources add value, and she continues to dedicate herself to informing and inspiring peers with her well-thought-out and well-founded content.


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