If a company hires employees per-diem, it means it’s on an “as-needed” basis. Usually, this involves less than full-time hours and does not confer benefits on the employees.
The Most Common Per-Diem Jobs
Perhaps the most obvious example is hiring substitute teachers. Whenever a full-time teacher is ill, the applicable district calls a qualified substitute to come in and cover the absent teacher’s classes. Rates of pay for substitutes nationwide are about $108 daily. Given a 180-day school year, that comes out to a bit more than $19,000 annually. Subs never work every day, however.
Healthcare workers, particular in hospitals, also work this way a lot of the time. This includes doctors and nurses as well as lab technicians, personal support workers, and other non-medical professions. Typically, highly skilled workers will receive a higher hourly rate because they don’t receive benefit packages. Also, hospitals often need replacement staff at a moment’s notice and are grateful to these daily workers who bail them out when they need it. It’s interesting to note that the healthcare industry treats its daily workers far better than the education system does.
Construction work is another industry where paying by the day is popular. Companies can hire bunches of workers when they’re under a time crunch and then let them go once the job is done. In the past, construction companies also used paying by the day to skirt their overtime obligations. Now, however, after a crackdown by the government, construction companies pay overtime and even use that fact to lure skilled workers away from more fly-by-night operations.
Obviously, daily workers can choose their own hours. They can hold down multiple positions at once and get training in different areas of their chosen field in a quest to bolster their resumes. The flexibility also allows them to focus on quality of life. If a worker is looking to get a “foot in the door,” then such daily work is far superior to unpaid internships or volunteering because the person actually gets paid.
Chiefly, the employer can say, “Thanks, that’s all we need,” at any time, leaving you with no recourse except to find another daily job. Although you usually make more money, with the exception of substitute teaching, than full-time employees, you have to pay out-of-pocket for healthcare, should you need it, because you very likely don’t have benefits.
Even if the company for which you are providing your services does not terminate you, you might not get the hours you need to survive because of competition between workers. Such competition might lead to strife between workers amid cries of favoritism or worse. A poor work environment can lead to stress and its related conditions.
If per-diem work is a good fit for you, be sure to vet your prospective employers thoroughly. Check out their history with daily workers. If possible, talk to a few of them to get an idea of how things go. Research the industry to see if what pay you’re being offered is both commensurate with your experience and in line with or better than the industry standard. If you look out for yourself, then there’s no reason an as-needed job won’t be great for you.