A reader writes:
I am the supervisor of a part-time salesperson, Mary, who is paid an hourly wage. She has been with us 6 months. Mary works set hours in our office (5 hours per day, 4 days a week), contacting and following up on sales leads.
Mary was asked and has agreed to go to a 3-day trade show out of town, at which our company is exhibiting. She will help set up and tear down the exhibit, and work at trade show as a salesperson. The question that has me stumped is how to compensate her for her time/work at the trade show. The company will cover her transportation, food and lodging. My boss, who is the owner of the company, wants to pay Mary only her hourly rate during the times that she is either selling at the trade show or setting up/tearing down, and not when Mary is traveling or at meals. However, I know a lot of “work” goes on during these supposedly “non-work” times, and also that Mary has to arrange child care at significant cost to her (Mary’s husband works out of town and Mary sees him only on weekends, so he can’t help out with the child care). I advocate giving Mary an extra “trade show bonus” on top of her hourly rate.
What do you think would be the right thing to do? We value Mary and want her to grow with us. Part of the value of her involvement in this trade show is educational, and our company does have a policy of paying for job-related education.
At a minimum, I'd pay her for a full day of work each day that she's there, meaning paying her for eight hours per day. If she'll be working more than eight hours a day, I'd figure out how many hours she'll be working and then round up, fairly generously, for the reasons you say. If you can afford it, I also think it's reasonable to decide to give her a bonus for traveling, simply because there's hassle involved in being away from home overnight.
There's also federal law, which requires that employees be paid for travel time that occurs during their regular work hours, and some state laws, which require it for any travel time.
Another thing to look at: What have you done for other employees in similar situations? You want to treat people reasonably similarly.
Whatever you decide, I'd say the principle you want to keep in mind is that you don't want to nickel and dime someone who's doing something for work that she wouldn't be doing otherwise.