If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, then it’s probably no surprise to you that I enjoy keeping track of everything regarding my finances. I also have been known to take any possible opportunity to make extra money, which is a big reason why I’m less than a year of full time work from reaching financial independence (and possibly actual retirement) at the age of 30. Making a higher total income was a primary factor for me choosing to travel in the first place, so working overtime when possible has always been my preference.
Before beginning my travel career, I often heard that travelers weren’t allowed to work overtime because it costs the facility too much money. I also heard that travelers are not paid for holidays when the facility is closed. I was told that both of these were just “part of being a traveler.” Luckily for Whitney and me, both of those things are not true. In fact, we have both worked quite a bit of overtime as travelers and have been paid for more than a handful of holiday and weather related facility closures.
Taking Advantage of Overtime
In almost three years of traveling now, I have worked a total of 405 hours of overtime. This has not been spread evenly throughout my time as a traveler and has instead been very sporadic. Some facilities are very short staffed, and therefore are willing to pay for travelers to work overtime in order to have all their patients seen. Whereas other facilities are adamantly against even 10 minutes of overtime.
Overtime as a traveler works a little differently than at a permanent job. This is due to how pay is structured for travelers, which I’ve written about in the past, and you can check out here. As travelers, only a portion of our pay is taxed, with the rest of the money we receive being stipends for housing, meals and incidentals. When a traveler works overtime, they aren’t legally allowed to be given additional money for housing, meals, or incidentals, which means that only the taxable portion of the pay is received as time and half. For example, if my taxable pay is $25/hour and then I get another $900/week (which breaks down to $22.50/hour additional) in stipends for housing, meals, and incidentals, I would only receive time and half on the $25/hour taxable portion of my pay. That means that when I work an hour of overtime, I’m actually making LESS per hour when working overtime than I make when working my first 40 hours of the week. In this example, for the first 40 hours of the week, I’d make $47.50/hour (with almost half of that amount coming from untaxed stipends) whereas when working overtime I’d make $25 * 1.5 = $37.5/hour (all taxed). That’s a significant reduction in pay, and for that reason, many travelers choose to not work overtime even if it is offered by the facility.
In order to combat the reduction in pay with overtime hours, Whitney and I have negotiated a bonus for each hour of overtime worked directly with our travel company. In addition to the regular time and a half of taxable pay, we get an additional $15 per hour of overtime worked! Not all companies will agree to a set up like this, but I always encourage travelers to talk to their recruiters about getting a bonus for overtime hours to make the extra hours more worthwhile. In total, over the past 12 assignments, I’ve made over $18,000 from working overtime as a traveler! That is almost 3x as much as I plan to spend on our five month international trip later this year when I begin my semi-retirement! So when you look at it that way, by working overtime, I’ve earned myself plenty of PTO/vacation time.
Being Paid for Holidays
While there is technically no holiday pay as a traveler, that doesn’t mean that we don’t get paid for having the day off. If you are a traveler that has followed my advice, then you should be only accepting travel assignments with a 40 hour guarantee. This means that if you are unable to get your full 40 hours for any reason (low census, weather, holidays, etc.) then you would still be paid for the missed hours. The 40 hour guarantee does depend on the travel company, because we have run into some companies that have a clause that excludes holidays from the 40 hour guarantee. So I recommend checking with your company regarding their rules before you sign your contract.
Due to having a 40 hour guarantee on all of my contracts over the past three years, I’ve gotten paid for 114 hours that I didn’t even work! That includes holidays, inclement weather days when the clinic was closed, and days when I left early due to cancellations! That’s almost three weeks worth of pay or over $4,500 that I’ve received while not even working! A 40 hour guarantee has been very beneficial for me, and I recommend that you take advantage of it as well.
If your facility is open on the holiday, then you are still required to work in order to receive your pay, so this is another reason that we avoid SNFs and hospitals if possible. Outpatient facilities are almost always closed for holidays or for (severe enough) inclement weather, which means we get paid for the day off, while those travelers working at a SNF or hospital do not.
The Bottom Line
As a travel therapist, it is possible to get the best of both worlds if you’re smart with your contract and work with a good company/recruiter. We are able to get paid a significant amount for working overtime, while also having the benefit of being paid for a full 40 hours, even if we aren’t able to actually work all of those hours. That’s basically like having the benefits of being both a salaried employee and an hourly employee at the same time! You’d be hard pressed to find that at a permanent job. Since we don’t get many benefits (PTO, sick days, etc.) as a traveler, it is important to take advantage of these opportunities whenever you can. While traveling, I’ve made over $18,000 in overtime pay, while also getting almost three full weeks of pay for hours I didn’t have to work.
For those experienced travelers out there, what’s been your experience with overtime and holiday pay?
If you’re a prospective traveler or a current traveler working with a company/recruiter that isn’t helping you make the most of your travel career, feel free to contact me and I can help set you up with the ones I personally use.