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I work on the IT Sector providing systems to customers with 24/7 operations; we had a service failure at 1AM and the team started support at 7AM remotely as soon as we woke up and noticed messages on our phones, the customer complained about the wait because it took hours for the service to be online again.

My boss demands now that I have to create a new procedure for emergencies, and that we should attend everything at any time, and I said that even for these cases we need to define a support schedule or we should hire someone that works at night shift handling support on those hours, but he refused, saying that emergencies are really rare and not worth hiring someone. I still refuse this instruction since on our contract our work hours are stated between 9AM and 6PM and no extra hours are paid ever, but he called on me, saying I'm supposed to come up with something, and that I was handling this unprofessionally.

I DO believe a contingency plan should be set up, but I don't think it’s fair that it should include that we have to attend at any given time of the day, since we only have one shift and are not getting paid for any extra hours. Also, I will be responsible for handling these instructions to my team, how should I handle this instruction in a professional manner?

EDIT

I improved this question trying to manifest the incident that lead to this situation and trying to make my question more clear.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Lilienthal
    Mar 29 at 21:22
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Well, you are responsible for defining a plan. So you should develop a plan that is fair.

Your boss is right that it's not economical to hire someone to generally do nothing all night.

The usual approach is to have somebody on-call, where they get paid X to be available, and then paid overtime rates of Y for each hour worked.

So, you develop a plan with a suggested X and Y, whatever is standard in the industry and country, and then you put that plan in front of your boss.

You're a tech lead, so you're not really responsible for deciding X and Y. The remuneration aspects are the purview of a manager. If he decides X and Y should equal 0, that's up to him of course, but he would need to ensure that is both legal, and there are enough suitable on-call candidates that are willing to work for free.

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    Your wife's situation may be that it's folded into her salary and it's mandatory. Maybe same for you if your role was IT support. I'm from Australia if that helps, where labour laws are pretty good. Mar 27 at 0:24
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    I strongly agree with this. The norm for IT/sysadmin/SRE jobs for this type of thing is absolutely on-call scheduling, though depending on where you are the availability and hourly rates may even be rolled directly into your salary. Do make sure to discuss this with your co-workers who would be on the schedule before presenting it to your boss (if you can have a complete schedule prepared ahead of time with everybody having signed off on it, it will be an easier sell to get it implemented). Mar 27 at 1:41
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    In most developed countries there are legal minima for X and Y, as well as maxima on the amount of time you can be on-call. So it's not entirely 'up to him'.
    – user125013
    Mar 27 at 8:12
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    One thing which seems not to have been considered is that the people who are nominated for on-call support actually have the skills and authorizations to provide it when required. This probably isn't a task for junior team members!
    – alephzero
    Mar 27 at 10:50
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    @Servaes: It can go even further. I used to be on-call in France. There's a minimum of contiguous non-working hours between work days, and between work weeks. I don't remember the exact numbers, so let's 10h between work days as an example: it means that if I leave work at 18:00, and I'm called from 03:00 to 05:00, then I didn't have my 10h from 18:00 to 03:00, so I can't come in to work before 15:00 on the next day. Mar 27 at 12:20
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Former union thug here.

You need to make the plan read like a union contract.

  • Standard hours: x-y with a rate of Z
  • On call rotation call list starting with primary on call, with backups
  • Compensation for being on call of $$$
  • Response to an after hours call: Z + 1/2(Z), minimum of 4 hours

Your boss will likely not like it, but it IS a plan and you have done your job.

Also, it might be worth presenting the idea of after hours support contracts with clients, where they can pay a fee to have that service, which should cover any costs to your business. IF they buy the support package, they pay a flat fee, if they don't, then they pay a premium rate for after hours support.

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    I ended up proposing to plan of on-premise support, so any team member that is willing to take the extra pay for attending calls should handle support, but as a response I'm threatened to get a paycut off my salary because supposedly part of it is for "eventualities". I think this could escalate further but great tips. Mar 26 at 23:59
  • @JonathanOrtega You can counter by "giving back" some points on the policy. If it's just for "eventualities", then you could either give back the minimum, OR the compensation for being on call. But you want to negotiate from a strong position. That's the point. Mar 30 at 16:54
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Never lose track of the basic interaction between an employer and an employee. You perform work, and they pay to for performing that work.

If they're not paying you, then you're not working. Your employer has no say over your free hours. So I agree that you shouldn't be working unpaid night hours, unless you were either being paid for the hours worked, or paid a consistent standby fee.

Or, at a push, that you are able to recoup these hours later on - if you're so inclined. If it's truly rare and unexpected, I make no qualms about staying late or working outside of my regular hours, but I do expect to recuperate those hours later on by coming in later or leaving earlier, which I'll usually do as close to the event as possible so they don't forget why I'm arriving later/leaving early.

Assuming your boss pays for the hours worked, you have a choice to make. Are you going to stipulate that your contract doesn't specify night shifts or standby?

You could do that, assuming your contract indeed doesn't mention any of these things, but it's going to paint yourself in an uncooperative light, assuming you could work those hours but simply refuse to because of a contractual technicality.

Whether you push this or not is up to you. Legally, you should be covered either way. But don't forget that there can be consequences to coming across as uncooperative.

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There are several ways to handle this, you have only come up with shift work.

Outline all the options and hand them in to the boss. You can move forwards after the boss makes a decision, until then you're building a problem that doesn't yet exist.

Shift work.

Redirect customers to a manager.

Assign a staff member to afterhours if necessary.

Pay overtime.

Pay time in lieu.

It's handled many different ways.

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One option is to make after-hour on-call days mandatory for your team, but allow the person who is on-call to take a half day off for doing so.This would require that your normal work day could be fielded with one less person, but would allow your team an opportunity to take prime time off during the day in exchange for fielding the "rare" emergencies. It would be worth discussing with your team before submitting the proposal, but from my experience most would jump at the opportunity.

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If your contract says 9-6, or 40 hours per week, or whatever, then those are the hours you work, and nothing more (sometimes you can work an extra like 15 mins or so if you need to finish something, but don't work significant extra time). Your company isn't in the business of giving you free money for not working, so you shouldn't be in the business of giving them free time for not being paid. That's the exchange.

Now, it seems your boss wants 24/7 maintenance of this system, without hiring anyone to actually do it, meaning he has to do it with the people he has allocated. So he has to make you work more. In which case, you have a choice: You can allow him to breach your contract by working more than your allocated time, without an increase in allocated compensation (giving them free time without being paid), or you can fight it and e.g. ask for a salary increase for compensation for the increased workload.

The outcome of the former would be essentially volunteering to take a pay cut (in terms of money gained per hours worked, because you're working more hours for the same money). The outcome of the latter could result in being terminated if your boss feels particularly nasty. However, in the latter case you could probably (IANAL) sue for damages/wrongful termination. The third option is, find a new job. The choice is yours.

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So you are supposed to offer a solution and you do not want to work for free (no idea why you would not want to do that, by the way). You may just suggest that your boss should be professional and on call 24/7.

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  • While I understand where this answer comes from, it is not constructive and doesn't help OP very much.
    – AnoE
    Mar 29 at 12:30
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    The boss wants a plan that won't cost him any money. This is what there is.
    – catfood
    Mar 29 at 13:10
  • @AnoE :Do you mean it would be more constructive for OP to work for free?
    – akhmeteli
    Mar 29 at 22:29
  • @akhmeteli: No, I mean exactly what I wrote. I mean that this answer is not constructive. It simply confirms to the OP that the request of the boss does not fly (OP already knows that, he writes it in his question); it does not give him any advice on how to proceed. The term "constructive" is not meant ad hominem against you, it is an adjective regarding the answer.
    – AnoE
    Mar 30 at 10:56
  • @AnoE : I think what I say might be constructive: whatever the OP does (without working for free) will make the boss unhappy, so what does the OP has to lose? Why not to use reductio ad absurdum?
    – akhmeteli
    Mar 31 at 10:49
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You could always suggest contracting out the out of hours support to another company. There are plenty of companies that will answer phones / emails for you between certain hours, you can give them a script to gather any relevant information and forward that to your staff so they are ready to go.

This way you can meet any SLA terms to respond to customer support requests within a guaranteed time frame and you can give them a list of phone numbers to attempt to call in case of a major incident starting with your boss.

This way nobody has to be on call on a regular basis

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