News & Events

The real cost of working off-the-clock

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
September 2008 Edition

By Deb Rigiero, RN
Associate Director, Organizing

As organizers we get the chance to talk to many non-unionized nurses about their working conditions. The issues they bring up frequently include:

  • Unsafe staffing
  • The lack of a real voice at work
  • Inequity in pay and treatment
  • Lack of respect
  • No break/lunch or, if they do get to take a break or lunch, it is on the unit and often interrupted
  • The lack of time to chart during their shift

For this article, I want to focus on the no break/lunch and charting issues. Please take a few minutes to answer the questions below and then refer to the chart that outlines the real cost of working off the clock.

  1. Are you punching out or signing out and then completing your charting on your own time?
  2. Have you been threatened with discipline for overtime use?
  3. Are you denied overtime for charting? 4. During your lunch break (probably on your unit) are you frequently interrupted or expected to be available?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you are not alone. Below is a chart for your consideration as to how much it actually costs to work off the clock. While looking at this, think of the MasterCard commercial.

The chart below is based on a wage of $30 per hour.

Working “off-the-clock” one hour per week.   Weekly: $45 Yearly: $2,340.
Savings of overtime costs to employer if 100 nurses work one hour “off-the-clock.”   Weekly: $4,500 Yearly: $234,000
Savings to employer because they do not need to hire more nurses to do the work.   Yearly: $62,000 per nurse (does not include benefits)
Manager bonus for keeping overtime costs under budget.   Varies (but have heard of managers getting up to $10,000 bonus)
Loss of nurse’s credibility as witness for falsifying time records.   Immeasurable
Nursing license   Priceless

Your life, your livelihood, your license: Priceless

Did any of the items in the graph above strike a chord with you? Maybe you’re a non-union nurse working without a protected voice, so there is the “fear factor” that keeps you quiet about such working conditions. If that is the case, take a moment to think about the stress that is put on you and your family when you are often late or working from home. Think about the legalities of charting when you are not actually working. Think about the money you are willing to donate to your employer instead of having it to pay your bills. And think about protecting your license … your livelihood.