Ask LH: How Often Can My Workplace Contact Me On My Days Off?

Ask LH: How Often Can My Workplace Contact Me On My Days Off?

Hi Lifehacker, I have a question about an employer contacting me on my days or mornings off via phone. I am a casual worker and I do sometimes have shift changes but I find that my boss will call on days off, wanting to talk about the previous shift or about an incident that happened that night or asking for some feedback.

My question is: do I actually have to pick up the phone when I am not being paid? I understand if I was in a salaried role where the responsibilities would be greater and there would be an expectation for me to be contactable at all hours. But I am not. Can you offer some insight? Thanks, Shift-Working Student

Phone picture from Shutterstock Dear SWS,

Did your contract make any mention of an expectation of availability outside of work hours? If not, you have zero obligation to take lengthy phone calls from your employer during your days off. Refusing to answer your phone might annoy you boss, but it’s not something he/she can officially discipline you for. (You might get strips torn off you anyway, but at least you’ll be legally in the right.)

That said, ignoring the phone completely probably isn’t the most harmonious solution — plus, there could be a legitimate reason for the phone call, such as a shift change. Our advice would be to answer calls only when it’s convenient and keep the conversation brief. If your boss is persistent, politely explain you’re a bit busy at the moment and would be happy to discuss the topic further on your next shift. As a student, you already have the perfect go-to excuse to cut things short: study!

The key is to make your verbal kiss-off polite and civil — as tempting as it may be, bluntly explaining you’re not getting paid to chat probably isn’t the best approach.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • If you have timesheets at work, I’d like to see what happens if you just start including the phone time in your hours. The way I see it, by initiating the call your boss has implicitly consented to the extra work hours, which is what a conference/meeting is when you get down to it, regardless of whether or not it’s face to face.

    I’m not necessarily *recommending* this course of action, but if you do it then report back with the results!

  • If it adds up to more than 15 minutes per day I would begin to stat putting them on my timesheet. Any discussions to do with your work should be done on the employers time, not yours, especially if you are on a wage and not a salary.

  • If I’m not on-call, I don’t answer work calls outside of work, period. If someone needs to contact me over something urgent, they can leave a voicemail message, send a text message or send an email. Otherwise, my personal time is mine and I have no intention of wasting it on work.

  • My friend who works as a team manager for a state government department gets called up every Saturday morning/afternoon for advice from his team.

    I’ve heard the conservations a couple of times they go:

    “Hi, sorry for bothering you on your day off”

    “That’s o.k. you just made me forty bucks”

    You see He gets paid a full hour of over-time for a 5-15 minute phone call and there is always a follow-up call an hour or two later and another $40.

    Tax payers money at work.

  • with my old boss, he used to call me at all hours…
    weekends, night times (i.e 11pm) for stupid shit.
    i then started logging the hours (minimum 1 hour, even for a 2 minute call) double time after 6pm and triple on weekends.

    i liked answering the phone. he got me to go to his place and sort his crap out, i got 600bux to just install a network printer (drivers) and share it…

  • Depends. Size of the org, relationship with caller/employer, employer expectations, etc. I answer calls on my off days if I feel like it. If I’m on-call then obviously I take the call. But a smaller org may not have a formal on-call setup (roster, remuneration, etc) and it my be beneficial to answer the call anyway.

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