Recently, I've been doing a lot of production support that requires off-hour work. Recently, I've been asked a couple of times to get up at 3:00 am and check the status of our data, which only takes 5 or 10 minutes of work (and 10 minutes for my eyes to get used to the bright light on the monitor). Fortunately, getting back to sleep is not usually a problem for me.

I plan to create another alert/job to do the monitoring for me, but that will take an hour or two, which I didn't have the last few days. They like me to keep my hours as close to 40/week as possible, but I rarely do any comp-time for such night-time activities.

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    Use flux for the monitor being too bright at night...
    – enderland
    Apr 24, 2013 at 2:36
  • Cool, I'll be trying flux tonight! Apr 24, 2013 at 3:09
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    The answer is going to vary based on your contract. This question is about the specifics of doing your job, as a consultant(despite its broad applicability), so it is off topic. Apr 24, 2013 at 14:33
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    I don't know about the rules in your country, but if i remember correct, the minimal time to be called in for a flex worker is 3 hours, even if there is only 10 minutes of work. Beside that, one and a half or double rate at night isn't unusual either. Seems reasonable.
    – Dorus
    Apr 24, 2013 at 22:34
  • I used to work as a 24/7 on-call troubleshooter for a global corporation. I was paid a "retainer" of around $3 per hour for all 'out of hours' time, ie from 5pm to 8am the following day. This was regardless if I was called or not. If I did get called, I was paid overtime at double my normal rate regardless of the time of the call, this was at around $50 per hour, rounded DOWN to the nearest quarter hour. This may or may not be fair or relevant here but I thought I would share how large companies deal with this type of issue, hope it is useful.
    – davidjwest
    May 18, 2015 at 13:34

5 Answers 5


Ultimately it's down to whatever you can negotiate with your client. If it were me I would consider a minimum payment for being woken up at all, even if no work is done. This is like the 'call-out charge' for a plumber who comes out to your house and finds there is nothing to do. You still have to pay him a minimum fee for having him show up.

The other matter you might consider is what would happen if you were out of town, or otherwise unavailable, when they call. Would that be OK with them, or would that be a problem? If it would be a problem you might like to consider the concept of 'on-call', where there are designated hours (or days) when you can be reached if needed, and some when you can't. It would be considered normal that they pay you some amount of money (not a full hourly rate) for all the time you are 'on-call', even if they don't actually call you.

  • So part of the question I guess is whether I should negotiate, or just tack on the hours into the weekly timesheet. Part of me says that we respect each other, and shouldn't even have to discuss it. The plumber analogy is great! Let me see if there are other responses coming... Apr 24, 2013 at 3:22
  • @NealWalters - If it is a one time thing that is completely different than every other week I get a call at 3am... Apr 24, 2013 at 14:35

Some contractors work on a "every started hour is billed as full hour" basis, which means you have to bill the full hour. For working in the night you can bill 100% more, meaning that this work will cost as 2 full hours (but it will cost so no matter if it took 10 or 59 minutes)

  • Two hours for waking up and doing a few minutes' work sounds very fair to me. More if you don't want to keep doing it. Jul 7, 2015 at 16:41

Depends what does you contract say? Ideally it should mirror what on call employees get. From when I was with BT

1 Payment for being on call normally so much per week

2 Say what the minimum billed time on call is (4 hours).

3 Say what the rate for time spent on call is. (Time and 3/4)

4 How quickly you have to respond (20 min)

So I would say 4 hours at time and 3/4 Its meant to be have a cost so the you are only called for real problems.


If when you do your 3:00 AM check the numbers are out of whack, or the process has died, they expect you to put in a couple of hours of work fixing the problem or addressing the issue. Then they need to pay for a reasonable amount of time (30 minutes) for every check you perform, with extra time when there is a problem.

If the only thing you are doing is writing down whatever numbers are on the screen, then tell them you can write a task that will record this info every hour, for just a few hours of labor. Show them that they will save a lot of money in the long run, instead of 30 minutes a day or 2.5 to 3.5 hours a week.

You have to bill for more than 5-10 minutes because your sleep is being disturbed. If they have a problem with it, then pass the task off to the another member of the team; or only compile data during hours you are awake.

  • Think about it--your real work time is from when you were waken up to when you're actually back asleep (not that you have a good way of logging that.) At a minimum they should pay that much time. Apr 25, 2013 at 2:15

First this is completely dependant on what your contract says. If the contract says you will be paid for the actual hours worked then you get 10 minutes worth of pay for 10 minutes worth of work. If you claim that you worked 2 hours when you only worked 10 minutes in this scenario then you are committing fraud. I currently have a contract that states I will only be paid for work done onsite. In this case if I get a call and choose to remote in to fix the problem in 10 minutes so I do not have to drive into the office, then I do not get to bill anything. I am also not required to maintain any on call status or availability. If I get a call at 3am I can choose to ignore it.

You need to look at your situation. If you are required to have some availability off hours then you should negotiate some arrangement that will make sure that if your time off is interrupted you are sufficiently compensated. When I am required to maintain on call for support I try to negotiate a minimum 4 hour pay regardless of the problem. This prevents the calls for minor issues that can wait for the morning, or at least compensates you for dealing with them.

If it is going to be a regular thing that I am going to get a call to support after hours but not be required to be available, then you should have some sort of written agreement. This can even be an email from your supervisor saying you can bill 2 or 4 hours for any after hours call, and be paid for your drive time should you need to come in after hours.

If this is just an irregular thing (once every 6 months or so) and mostly about systems I support and most likely due to something I did I am not going to push the pay issue. This is the cost of doing business every once in a while you have to clean up a little mess. It is not good business to not be willing to give a little. While you may be entitled to the pay, and you should bill for the hours you work, asking for extra for the exception can be seen as greedy. In contracting you are your product so it is as important to make sure your brand is not tarnished by greed as it is to make sure that you are not seen as a sucker.

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