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Not Being Paid For Hours On-Call

Active Member
Trishia S Member Since: Mar 19, 2019
1 of 6

I've accepted my first Upwork contract and the client has asked me to be available/on-call from 8am-5pm Monday through Friday for any incoming customer phone calls. However, the client has only planned to pay me for my time spent on the phone with customers, with a current weekly hourly cap on the position as 10 hours per week. I do not have a fixed-price contract, it is an hourly rate agreement.

 

I'm essentially being asked to be on-call for 45 hours per week, but have only been asked to bill for the 10 hours or less that I actually spend on the phone. I've learned that this may be a violation of labor laws, and I'd like to end the contract but I'm concerned about getting negative feedback from the client.
 
I have not been brought on as an employee, and from my understanding, a client cannot set my schedule as a freelance contractor. Also, if I'm required to be available from 8-5pm each day, I believe I should be billing for all of those nine hours with my hourly fee.
 
I'd appreciate any advice on this. Thank you.
Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
2 of 6

Trishia S wrote:

I've accepted my first Upwork contract and the client has asked me to be available/on-call from 8am-5pm Monday through Friday for any incoming customer phone calls. However, the client has only planned to pay me for my time spent on the phone with customers, with a current weekly hourly cap on the position as 10 hours per week.

 

I'm essentially being asked to be on-call for 45 hours per week, but have only been asked to bill for the 10 hours or less that I actually spend on the phone. 

That is something that should have been clarified BEFORE you accepted the contract..

 

It is difficult, so you need to have an open and frank discussion with the client. If you can't agree, you need to end the contract.

 


Trishia S wrote:
I'm concerned about getting negative feedback from the client.
 

Well, if you have not started working yet you can get out before anything has been paid (no time logged) so any feedback would be private and therefor not visible on your profile, but it would count as an unsuccessful contract and affect your future JSS (Job Success Score) significantly.

 

In future make double / triple sure you and the client are on the same page about everything. Don't jump in all excited and accept a contract happy to have been hired.

 

 

 

Community Guru
Bill H Member Since: Aug 18, 2017
3 of 6

You are correct, if you are required to be available whether there is work or not, you need to be compensated for that. It is reasonable to expect whatever your usual rate is for that time. However, unsophisticated clients won't understand that, and UW has no model to handle this.

 

Explain to the client that whether you are in contact with a customer or not, the requirement that you be available exclusively to this client for that period of time precludes you from doing any other work. You cannot run your own business that way, and doubt the client could successfully run his if one customer required him to be available full-time. What the client can do is contract with a public call center that handles 24/7 requirements by using multiple agents plus a lot of technology. The client will discover immediately that this is very costly.

 

Offer to work out an arrangement that allows your client's company and your business to have needs met. This might be a one-hour response time on your part, and a fixed-price contract that pays weekly milestones. That way you check for messages about once an hour, and otherwise can do other work.

 

The client will not be able to hire anyone even minimally competent on the basis he is offering.

 

Petra knows far more about how Upwork functions than I do; I do know how business works, and this isn't it. If fear of a poor JSS is preventing you from succeeding, you're not ready to run a freelancing business.

Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
4 of 6

First, ditto what Petra and Bill said.

 

Second, this is what I would try for:

- a weekly retainer to provide for the on-call availability; maybe your hourly rate x 8

- actual time spent fielding calls (and/or any other assigned tasks) billed at your hourly rate

- define the on-call availability as responding to messages within a mutually agreeable window, for calls you can't answer; you will have to have a dedicated voice mail box anyway because it's not inconceivable you could be on one of htese calls when another comes in

 

If that kind of structure enables you to organize other work around it, then that should serve you and the client. If the client insists on having exclusive access to you full-time, then they must pay for it.

 

Maybe they'll be reasonable, maybe not. 

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
5 of 6

This kind of contract is really what the weekly stipend / salary model is designed for.

 

The client could pay $ XXX per week for the 45 hour availability, and the actual calls are billed on an hourly basis on top.

 

That would, however, require closing the current contract and setting up a new one.

 

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
6 of 6

re: "I'm essentially being asked to be on-call for 45 hours per week, but have only been asked to bill for the 10 hours or less that I actually spend on the phone."

 

The key word here is "asked."

 

You were "asked" to do this, not "forced" to do this.

 

You are dealing with one of two possible types of clients:

- a client who absolutely knows and understands the arrangement, and is not going to change this

[or]

- a client who has a certain objective, but is flexible about how to achieve that, and may be willing to work with your recommendations about how to structure this arrangement in a way that will work for both of you.

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