Who is ‘on-call’ in Australia? A new classification approach for on-call employment in future population-level studies

Madeline Sprajcer, Sarah L. Appleton, Robert J. Adams, Tiffany K. Gill, Sally A. Ferguson, Grace E. Vincent, Jessica L. Paterson, Amy C. Reynolds

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    4 Citations (Scopus)
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    On-call research and guidance materials typically focus on ‘traditional’ on-call work (e.g., emergency services, healthcare). However, given the increasing prevalence of non-standard employment arrangements (e.g., gig work and casualisation), it is likely that a proportion of individuals who describe themselves as being on-call are not included in current on-call literature. This study therefore aimed to describe the current sociodemographic and work characteristics of Australian on-call workers. Methods A survey of 2044 adults assessed sociodemographic and work arrangements. Of this population, 1057 individuals were workforce participants, who were asked to provide information regarding any on-call work they performed over the last three months, occupation type, weekly work hours, and the presence or absence of non-standard work conditions. Results Of respondents who were working, 45.5% reported working at least one day on-call in the previous month. There was a high prevalence of on-call work in younger respondents (63.1% of participants aged 18–24 years), and those who worked multiple jobs and more weekly work hours. Additionally, high prevalence rates of on-call work were reported by machinery operators, drivers, community and personal service workers, sales workers, and high-level managers. Conclusions These data suggest that on-call work is more prevalent than previously recorded and is likely to refer to a broad set of employment arrangements. Current classification systems may therefore be inadequate for population-level research. A taxonomy for the classification of on-call work is proposed, incorporating traditional on-call work, gig economy work, relief, or unscheduled work, and out of hours work.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0259035
    Number of pages13
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2021


    • On-call
    • on-call work
    • Non-standard employment
    • work characteristics
    • Australian workforce
    • classification systems


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