Working: on Salary

Now that I have done all three of these in this calendar year…let’s talk a little bit about the benefits and drawbacks of working on salary, hourly rate, and as an independent contractor. This post is not as sophisticated as I want it to be, but I am not a sociologist or a labor historian, so you’ll have to allow me my point of view and forgive any egregious oversights.

I have never worked in the service industry, so I can’t speak to working for tips or that kind of thing (one night bar-tending at the bar in my college’s neighborhood bar was super fun, but doesn’t qualify me to discuss in-depth). At the florist where I worked for one summer, a guy who got drunk and cheated on his lady every weekend would buy her flowers every Sunday morning, and leave a big tip for the girls who were working, which we would spend on coffee from around the corner. Not the same.

But seriously, what are the benefits of being on salary? The Benefits. Most organizations I know begrudgingly give out benefits only to full-time, exempt, salaried employees. Health insurance, dental, vision, 401k or 403b, life insurance, disability insurance, pet insurance (that is not a joke), legal services, employee discounts, and paid time off.

Another benefit is know when your next paycheck will come (and Direct Deposit, a truly marvelous use of technology) and how much it will be for. You don’t “lose a day” when your work schedule conflicts with a holiday Monday.

However, your hours are not the 35 or 40 a week that you sign up for in your employment contract. You are expected to work until the work is done. You are often expected to work 50 hour weeks, night and weekend (for events and other reasons). In my case, this has meant working every other weekend for two months, working full weeks of 14 hours days, and being told that if I didn’t agree to stay until after 7 pm each night to meet with my boss I would be fired. (Not all at the same job!)

There are other ways of keeping you on your toes. Some employers keep “employed at will” workers on yearly contracts, so that positions can be eliminated at the end of each fiscal year. This is a practice that I personally don’t care for, though I understand why it works in some instances. Only a small handful of non-profits that I know of engaged in systematic, long-term employee evaluations processes, and very few have 360 reviews.

The benefits outweigh the costs, without a doubt. Even with comprehensive health care reform that led to individual payer systems, I would still want a salary, especially for the employer match retirement contributions. I like predictability.

Tell me what you think! And look for posts on Hourly and Freelance work later this week (tomorrow).

  1. Chris C said:

    Salaried work become more advantageous during the summer, when people are often away on vacation, nothing new is getting done so ‘summer fridays’, ‘summer wednesday afternoons’ and ‘summer monday mornings’ become possible. Still I don’t think that it outweighs the 50+ hour work week (and expected 24hr availability) for the other nine months out of the year.

    • That is interesting, mostly because at my old job, summer was even busier–so even though other people were not working, we were always busy.

      I will say that I appreciate organizations that have a mandatory closed office during the holidays. I used to get the last two weeks in December off, what a dream!

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