I work as an IT support tech at a company in British Columbia. Right now I work Monday to Friday 40 hours a week, normal daytime hours. I am paid salary, though my salary is based on the hourly wage I was making before they moved me to salary.

The industry I work in is Federally mandated, therefore provincial labour codes don't apply to us, only federal. According to the following government website, on-call employees are not considered to be working unless they are actually called in to work. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/laws-regulations/labour/interpretations-policies/hours-work.html

While “stand-by” or “on-call” employees are common to many industries, the time spent waiting for a call is not considered work.

This is borne out by case law:

Richard Paré vs. S.R.J Expedite Limited (YM2727-2696): “A person who is available to work if needed, but who is not in fact needed, is not working.”

Bradley H. Bell vs. LTS Solutions (YM2727-3161): “I disagree with Mr. Bell’s position that being on call and having a company cell phone and vehicle at your residence necessarily means that you are at work. ...Carrying a pager may be an inconvenience and remaining within the pagers range is undoubtedly so but this does not turn being on standby into work”.

This makes sense, though I'm not sure if it applies to my specific situation, as I work over 40 hours a week, and then am expected to "make myself available" and keep my company cell phone with me on weekends just incase something happens.

I am one of two techs supporting over 250 users and we are both working like this. I can't go to the pub to drink with friends on a friday night without feeling guilty or worrying that someone is going to call me with some emergency while I'm 5 pints in. And I can't go out camping where there's no cell reception without letting my coworker and boss know beforehand. I feel like I haven't left the office since I first walked in.

The thing is, none of the On-call work is in writing anywhere, it's more of a heavy implication that I'm just expected to be available if someone from our remote offices calls my company cell phone with an "emergency".

Admittedly I only get a call every 2-3 weekends or so but it's not the calls themselves that are the issue. At least I get paid for those. The issue is the fact that I have to be available during my "time off" for these calls and when no one does call, I'm not paid for it.

Is there some kind of labour law in Canada that covers additional On-call hours on top of normal fulltime hours?

Edit for clarification: I suppose there are two outcomes I would be happy with. The first, I start getting paid for being on call. The second, I am no longer on-call every waking moment of my life. I don't mind being on-call, but I don't like working for free. So I guess my real question is, how do I achieve either of these two outcomes?

Additionally, my contract states that my hours will "remain flexible to fit company needs" not that I am to be on-call 24/7.

Also, if this question would be better served in the Law stack exchange, let me know and I will move this there.

  • 3
    Is knowing whether you should be paid the solution to your problem, or do you actually just want not to be on call literally all the time? – Nathan Cooper Apr 13 '20 at 23:51
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    If it’s not considered work, then you leave your phone at work. – gnasher729 Apr 14 '20 at 9:49
  • @gnasher729: This should be the case in civilised countries. However, from virolino's answer I understand that there exists other countries where the law is okay with that kind of slavery. – guest Apr 14 '20 at 11:03
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    Most questions that start with "Can my employer" are a better fit for law.stackexchange.com . It's also not a well formed question: Of course they can. They just did. You probably want to know EITHER whether it's legal OR what's your options and best course of action. Please note, that these are two very different questions. – Hilmar Apr 14 '20 at 11:29
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    Not Canadian, but from (IT support) experience in multiple countries, on-call is paid, in one of two ways: a small fee per hour of on-call availability, or full pay for hours worked when being called upon (or both, in rare cases). Unpaid non-voluntary on-call time is massively overstepping the work-life boundary. – Flater Apr 14 '20 at 12:10

It all depends on your contract, I guess. It is also dependent on the up-time requirements of the system(s) that you are responsible for.

Just to give you an example. I have a friend / colleague. One of her responsibilities is to provide support to a well defined group of people.

Normally, if nothing happens, she has a job of 8hrs/day, 5 days a week. But if any need occurs, she must be available 24x7.

Is it comfortable? Definitely no. Is that her job, that she agreed with from the beginning? Definitely yes.

Is your situation similar to hers? Only you can find out. Study your contract and any other papers you have, to see what is actually expected from you.

be On-call on the weekends without pay?

That is also a matter of reading your contract. Maybe the payment is (considered) already included in your salary - the same as in the case of my friend (mentioned above).

  • 1
    It is sad that law allows such situations to happen. – guest Apr 14 '20 at 8:43
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    @virolino The police is 24/7 up, but that doesn't imply that all the officers are 24/7 working. Your logic is flawed. – Roberto Apr 14 '20 at 9:16
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    So does your friend have to be avaiable every day 24/7? (If yes, is she allowed to drink alcohol and go to places without phone reception?) – guest Apr 14 '20 at 9:32
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    @guest: what we do here is just guesswork, from different points of view. Until we see OP's contract, nothing we say is really relevant. Even small details can have great consequences. – virolino Apr 14 '20 at 9:40
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    In my time off, nobody can tell me that I can’t drink enough alcohol to be not able to do my job. That’s why you get paid for being on call. No pay, no play. – gnasher729 Apr 14 '20 at 9:51

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