Newbie, when put "on call" does per diem get reduced?

  1. I am on my first travel assignment with LRS healthcare. I don't feel very comfortable with my recruiter, he has said things that never happened. For example, I worked Memorial Day, he told me I would receive holiday pay, didn't show up on my check. Called him, he said, oh, it will be on next week's check, didn't happen. When I called him about it, he said the hospital didn't pay travelers for Memorial Day. If I had known that before, I wouldn't have worked the holiday.

    Last weekend, my hospital put me on call. I still had to be there so that if they needed me to come in, I could come in. My check was very short. The per diem was only half of what it is normally--is this normal for "on call" with other agencies. When I asked him about it, he said "I will look into it. I know when you are on call the pay is less." I tried to explain to the moron that I still had to be here in case I got called in. I also pointed out that in June, when I was canceled 1 1/4 shifts (I had only 18.75 hours worked), my per diem was the regular amount.

    This is my last weekend on this contract. I am going to change companies and ditch the moron. Am already pursuing other options. Is "do I still get per diem at regular rate if the hospital puts me on call".

    Thanks so much for any info.
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    About txmed/surgRN

    Joined: Apr '08; Posts: 4; Likes: 3


  3. by   BluntForceTrauma
    On call rates are usually lower. If I'm understanding correctly, by per diem, you mean the daily pay they give you while on assignment. You should get that for every day that you are on assignment if I'm not mistaken. Read over your contract.

    I would run so far away from this company. Go to an agency where your hours are guaranteed..and make sure it is in your contract!
  4. by   NedRN
    Official hospital holidays are usually specified in the hospital contract. It is trivial for agencies to pass this information along in the traveler contract but it often doesn't happen. As Memorial Day is almost always a paid holiday across the country, you should be getting overtime for working it. Does not your contract have a different rate for "holidays", even if it doesn't specify which ones qualify? I would go up the line in LRS (past your recruiter) to voice this. LRS has had a reputation of being good to travelers in the past, and it is unlikely that the owners would appreciate this bad press over a trivial amount of money. I think your recruiter is clueless and it is a waste of your time to talk to him (doesn't mean it is bad agency overall though). It is possible that they really do not owe you the money as your shift may not have fallen on the actual "hospital celebrated" holiday. Do you know? I thought not.

    Probably the majority of agencies tie the per diem to worked hours. Work fewer hours, get less hourly and per diem "hourly". This makes the math easier for them, and for travelers to understand. The IRS does not approve of this practice as it clearly is illegal to tie reimbursements to worked hours. Per diem means "by the day" and you are still in a foreign city away from home and working fewer hours does not mean you need to eat less or be housed less.

    That said, it is easy for an agency to instead pay you the same amount per week in those weeks that you missed hours with a legal formula. All they have to do is set up a "missed hours" penalty exactly equalling the per diem and housing amount. This would be far better from the IRS perspective, but the bottom line would be identical to you. Not worth fussing with. Reporting the practice to the IRS will gain you nothing.

    Both these issues have a common thread. You've never read your contract. Not even after you had these issues. You need to read your contract with every agency and make sure that you understand these possible situations and address any problems you might have with them before you sign the contract. And before you volunteer to work overtime or a holiday. Is your per diem paid per hour worked? What exact holiday hours are subject to overtime? If it is not clear, the contract needs to be revised before agreeing to it.
  5. by   txmed/surgRN
    Thank you both for your input. I really appreciate the validation of what I was thinking. I kind of figured that, because it was the end of my contract, maybe the recruiter thought I would just go away. I have refused to speak with him on the phone, requesting written answers to my questions. I am afraid that, as a new traveler, I just jumped the gun without thinking about all the scenarios that can occur while on assignment and didn't have all my bases covered in writing.

    That being said, I did read the contract. The housing provision says that housing is paid for "as long as professional is on assignment" I was on-call and therefore on assignment. I have long since given up on the holiday pay. I have asked that he respond, in writing, by end of day today. If not, I am going to contact the BBB in Omaha and file a complaint. They are not members so it may not do any good. I also have the name of the President of the company. I plan to send a registered letter to him outlining my complaints.

    I have a new opportunity contracting directly with a hospital. I have an interview on Monday. The pay is considerably more ($42.00 hr plus weekend and shift difs). NedRN, I have read your posts and they have been very helpful. Any specific suggestions regarding my interview on Monday about things to ask? I don't know if it will work out for me. They want minimum 2 holidays, which means Christmas and New Years, which I am not sure I am ready to work, but we will see.
  6. by   NedRN
    There are lists of pertinent questions for agency and hospital interviews online at PanTravelers and other sites, but really what matter is what is of personal or professional concern to you. Largely you learn those as you have on this assignment, after the fact. But then you can focus on those for the next assignments until you learn about new issues.

    I don't have any specific questions for you, but you should know that things are different when working for hospitals. As far as I know, all of them will deduct taxes from provided housing or a stipend without any consideration for your tax home status. Your check will look considerably smaller. You can deduct actual receipted expenses at the end of the year (if you have a tax home), but your net will still be lower than if you had worked at the same rate for an agency. You also lose a middleman, which can sometimes be of help in negotiating with the hospital if you have concerns over contracted hours or a clinical issue. You also want to examine benefits carefully: you may have access to better insurance and 401.

    PanTravelers has a nifty calculator that can help you crunch your total pay and compare hospital and agency pay. Don't just fixate on $42 an hour.