On-call management best practice

On-call management best practice - Traxxeo

On-call duty enables a company to ensure availability of its staff in the event of urgent and/or unexpected issues or incidents. Effective management of on-call scheduling provides for excellent responsiveness, while respecting workers’ rights.  

What is the best way to implement on-call duty? How should it be remunerated? What are my rights and obligations as an employee required to be on-call? We shall review this together.

What is the role and definition of on-call duty?

What does on-call mean on a work schedule?

On-call duty, or stand-by duty, is a period of time during which an employee is required to be available for their employer in order to be able to respond quickly. The staff member is not obliged to be at their usual place of work but must be able to get there within a reasonable amount of time.

The use of on-call duty is particularly common in the domain of maintenance and support, which require a high level of responsiveness.

On-call duty is subject to numerous regulations, in order to respect workers’ rights. Compensation must be provided, in terms of remuneration and/or time off in lieu.

On-call duty: what does the labor code state?

In France, the labor code (Article L3121-9) defines on-call duty as a period of time during which the employee must be able to provide work duties for the company at short notice, but without having to be immediately available for the employer.  

While the on-call period itself is not considered as actual work, the duration of any work that takes place is defined as work.

The French labor code imposes several rules relating to on-call duty, in particular:

  • The employee must be informed about the time and details of the on-call duty period a reasonable amount of time prior to it taking place.
  • In the absence of a specific notification period provided by the company’s convention or agreement, the employer must inform the employee at least 15 days in advance (unless there are exceptional circumstances).
  • The time spent working on a call-out is considered as actual work time.
  • All on-call duty periods must be compensated, whether with a financial reward or time off in lieu. 
  • On-call duty periods must adhere to the maximum legal working limit and compulsory rest periods.

Issues with managing on-call scheduling

Managing the scheduling of on-call duty presents significant issues for workers, companies and their clients. For workers, on-call duty can be a source of stress and upset the balance between professional life and personal life.

For companies, poor on-call management can lead to higher costs, reduced productivity and lower client satisfaction. Lastly, for clients, an interruption to their service can have adverse consequences for their own business operations.

Managing on-call scheduling: how should it be approached?

The rules to follow when implementing an on-call support service

Implementation of on-call duty must comply with certain rules:

  1. Inform the relevant employees about the on-call procedures and arrangements and obtain their prior agreement in writing.
  2. Plan an on-call rotation schedule between employees in order to comply with the rules relating to maximum working time and daily and weekly rest periods.
  3. Set out compensation for on-call duty, which can be remuneration or time off in lieu.
  4. Ensure adherence to the collective convention that applies to the company or the collective agreement approved between the employer and staff representatives.
  5. Act fairly and be approachable. In addition to the established rules, always be respectful of each individual’s work-life balance.

Who sets the on-call conditions?

The conditions that govern on-call duty must be set in advance. They are usually established by provisions of conventions: collective convention, collective agreement, industry, company or establishment agreement that are applicable under labor law.

If required, they can also be set by the employer itself, in consultation with the social and economic council (CSE) and with information required by the labor inspectorate.

Therefore, the rights and obligations of the employee and employer relating to on-call duty must be clearly established in advance. Although a work contract may mention on-call duty, this alone cannot impose an on-call duty period onto an employee.

To find out more about the rules governing on-call duty in their company, the employee can consult the collective convention applicable to the company or the collective agreement established between the employer and staff representatives.

On-call management best practice

To ensure effective and fair management of on-call scheduling, it is also important to take several criteria into account, such as:

  • Precise definition of the tasks and responsibilities of each on-call worker, as well the contact procedure in the event of an emergency.
  • Development of an on-call rotation system to ensure fair distribution of on-call shifts between workers, as well as consideration for the personal constraints of each individual (e.g. childcare).
  • Provision of suitable equipment (mobile telephone, laptop, etc.) to enable on-call workers to respond to requests and call-outs rapidly.
  • Introduction of appropriate remuneration and compensation for on-call workers, in compliance with current regulations.
  • Creation of a monitoring and evaluation system for on-call scheduling to aid continuous improvement of the process.

Common errors to avoid when managing on-call scheduling

On-call management needs to comply with certain regulations as well as some practices that are simply common sense and respectful of employees’ work-life balance. Ignoring these rules and advice carries some risks: 

  1. Not complying with rules relating to the maximum working time and daily and weekly rest periods can lead to penalties for the employer and risk the health and safety of employees.
  2. Not providing compensation for the on-call period can be a source of conflict and low morale among employees.
  3. Not informing the relevant employees about the on-call procedures and not obtaining their prior agreement in writing can be considered as a breach of employees’ rights.
  4. Not adhering to the provisions of the collective convention applicable to the company or the collective agreement established between the employer and staff representatives can expose the employer to legal action and penalties.

Employees: frequent questions about on-call duty

1. Is on-call duty compulsory?

On-call duty is not obligatory but can be imposed on employees, according to the conditions set out in law and by the employee’s collective convention (or the collective agreement, if applicable).

Time spent on call-outs is considered actual work and must be compensated as such. Employers must also comply with minimum rest periods between two on-call shifts. 

2. Can an employee be on-call every day?

In France, no worker can be on-call every day. On-call periods are subject to different regulations which limit their duration and regularity.

For example:

  • The total on-call time for 15 days cannot exceed 72 hours (for organ removal and transplant services, the limit is 120 hours).
  • An employee cannot be on-call for more than 1 Saturday, 1 Sunday and 1 public holiday per month.
  • On-call time is limited to 21 shifts per month, including Sundays and excluding public holidays.

In general, on-call shifts must comply with the authorized maximum working time periods and obligatory rest periods. 

It is also vital to ensure effective and fair rotation of on-call shifts and respect sufficient rest periods, in order to avoid causing excessive fatigue and risking the health and safety of workers.

3. I am on-call. Am I entitled to an allowance?

During on-call shifts, employees are entitled to compensation, called an on-call allowance, which can be financial or in the form of additional rest days. This compensation can be calculated according to the hours worked on the basis of a percentage of the hourly rate or a fixed amount.

Employees must receive a monthly document which states the number of on-call hours and the compensation received. As with any form of remuneration, on-call allowances are subject to social security contributions and income tax.

4. What is the remuneration for an on-call shift? 

Remuneration for an on-call shift depends on the legislation in force in each country and the applicable collective convention. In France, for example, the labor code stipulates that employees who are on-call must be paid a minimum of 10% of their basic salary.

However, the collective convention can set out more favorable provisions, such as higher rates or compensation in the form of time off. It is therefore important to refer to the applicable legislation and collective agreements in order to determine the exact remuneration for an on-call shift.

Employers: how to implement an effective on-call system

For employers, the implementation of an effective on-call scheduling system can be a challenge. However, there are two important steps to take to achieve this.

How do you manage on-call scheduling and rotation?

First of all, it is essential to carefully manage the scheduling of on-call shifts. This involves determining the number of employees necessary to cover the on-call periods to meet client needs, as well as the skills required to be able to respond to urgent issues and incidents.

It is also important to set up an on-call rotation schedule to avoid excessive fatigue of employees and ensure compliance with the legislation governing on-call shifts. 

Once the on-call shifts have been scheduled, they must be communicated to employees on an individual basis, while complying with stipulated time periods (minimum 15 days in general).

How should on-call work be recognized?

In France, on-call duty is not regarded as actual working time. However, it is not exactly time off either: while the employee can go about their own business during the on-call shift, they must nevertheless remain contactable at all times to meet any needs that arise. For obvious practical reasons, they must also remain within a reasonable distance of the workplace they could be called out to.

If the employee is called out to undertake some kind of work, their hours of work must be recognized. This time is thus regarded as actual work time and must be remunerated accordingly. 

If the employee exceeds their normal work hours quota as a result of this call-out, the additional time must be remunerated in the same manner as overtime.

On-call software: tools for simplifying on-call management

Good on-call management requires:

  • Excellent visibility of team scheduling: who is available at which time? Who possesses which skills? Who has already been scheduled to be on-call recently?
  • Thorough monitoring of worked hours: who was called out to work?

These factors are vital to be able to ensure workers’ rights and correct remuneration. 

Do you have mobile staff? Find out more about the digital tools that simplify on-call management:

Managing on-call schedules effectively is a strategic issue for the employer

Although managing on-call scheduling can be complex, following best practice is vital in order to ensure excellent service as well as respect of workers’ rights.

In addition to the applicable legislation, it is also a question of applying common sense and fairness. Good scheduling involves having a clear overview of each worker’s availability and the on-call shifts already undertaken, in order to ensure rotation of teams.

It is just as much about guaranteeing client satisfaction with on-call support as protecting the business brand, in a sometimes difficult recruitment climate. 

In the specific case of the construction sector and maintenance domain, having customized scheduling and time tracking tools is also essential to ensure adequate visibility of the hours worked and upcoming on-call shifts.

Companies that succeed in effectively managing their on-call scheduling are able to avoid risk, improve their responsiveness and strengthen their brand image as an employer that is respectful of the rights of its workers.

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