Understanding Per Diem Travel

What is GSA for those working over 50 miles from their permanent residence. The General Services Administration defines it by the zip code and term of the year for both lodging and meals. To make things more transparent to our contract employees, we combine the per diem and salary with the explanation that a portion of the salary will be untaxed.  

IRS on travel

Some agencies will break this out such that your per diem for lodging and meals appears to be separate. It makes it seem like it is more, but it’s not. It comes down to the same numbers in your paycheck. For clear accounting and understanding of pay, combine the numbers to find the total compensation package.

An example

Travel contract pay per month:  $10,000 (defined in the contract, the agency and client’s budget)

City: Los Angeles using zip code 90032

Permanent home: San Francisco (more than 50 miles distance)

Year: 2023

Housing: $182 per night

Meals: $74 (breakfast $17, lunch $18, dinner $34, incidentals $5)

  • Hourly: $62.50
  • Daily per diem: $256
  • Weekly per diem $ 1,792
  • Total weekly compensation: $2,500
  • Total compensation per month: $10,000
  • Untaxed portion of income: $7,168 will not be taxed; the balance $2,832 will be taxed.

For any given area in Los Angeles, $256 should be enough to cover lodging and food along with incidentals or living expenses per day. Defined by the GSA.

There may be advertisements that read:  $2,000 -3,000 PLUS PER DIEM!

This the exact same job with the exact same numbers, but the numbers here look better because you are getting 20% more. The numbers are still the same, but the representation and break down is different. You should always ask about the total guaranteed hours per week and the total per diem per week. Then you will have a true picture of the compensation.

Note: there may be other factors that will add to the compensation such as holiday pay, overtime, on call, and call back. In any and every instance, one should confer with their CPA to see how this effects your taxes and reporting to the IRS.

Healthcare Travel Contracts Questions

One of the reasons I became involved in the medical staffing industry was to lead a better brand of recruiting services. One of the issues I have heard about consistently is the discrepancy in the advertisement of pay to a medical worker compared to they receive in their actual paychecks.

Not to call into question the actions of other agencies, I would like to share how healthcare professionals looking for contract work can ask pertinent questions about their assignment before they even start. Some assignments have quick starts, where the credentialing process is shortened; but this does not mean that the interview process should be rushed. There are good questions to ask not only to the recruiter but also the hiring manager.

Guaranteed Hours – How many hours a week are scheduled in the contract? The posting may indicate outrageous pay, but how does that relate to each week. An understanding of the total amount of hours is clearly needed.

Guaranteed Contracts – Most contracts are 13 weeks, but some are guaranteed for a shorter length of time. This is especially pertinent as we go from winter into spring and the weather and overall health conditions improve. The contractor may not be needed for the entire 13 weeks and may only get a 7-week guarantee. In short, the facility may only guarantee the shorter time length.

Holiday Pay – Not all holidays are paid. There should be defined days in the contract for pay and which specific hours.

On Call Requirements – Some facilities require that contracted travelers work on call. This is something that should be asked, especially if you are planning to be at home or away from the area on other days.

Overtime Hours – In some cases, recruiters will combine overtime hours with pay in their advertising. Overtime may be needed for certain weeks; but again, they are needed for the entire length of the contract.

Reimbursements – This should also be outlined in the contract and when they will be paid. For example, some remote hospitals will offer a perk that housing will be provided. It may be a hotel or an apartment. In every case, the candidate should ask who is paying for the housing upfront and if there are any out of pocket expenses (like parking or cleaning ) to pay for.

These questions can clear up critical things about the assignment and prevent frustration over the first paycheck. It is also good to set expectations in the beginning; that way you understand the role, term, pay, hours, and if anything else is needed regarding the job.

I want to be a trusted resource for traveling healthcare workers, so if there are questions, please feel free to call.

Dane Flanigan

Vacations Optimize Work

For hard working, ever charging Americans, the thought of vacation can be a daunting task at times. There are the schedules of the immediate family and other people to consider, the best days to take time off from work, and, of course, the cost. But let’s also consider that vacations help us be more productive at work and more in tune with the family after a break. Everyone’s personal and home life can benefit.

Vacations technically start when you get on the plane. But vacations really start when you begin thinking about where to go. The creative juices churn, as the mind begins to think outside the box. The limits are endless: why not go to Greenland and hang out in an ice castle hotel for two months…Yeah, we can do that when the kids are grown and married, and we are six months into retirement.

In business, we try to create, low cost, high impact plans. A Superbowl advertisement this year seems out of the question, so we look at other ways to reach the same audience of potential customers. We must think about taking time off in the same way: low cost – high impact. Let’s take a mental break and not dedicate a ton of time to fantasy budgets.

Vacations don’t have to be elaborate getaways to wherever United or American Airlines can take us. Yes, we all want two months of unfettered relaxation in an ice castle; but at times, the Saturday daytrip for a few hours to a local town can be quite fun.

For those mini-vacations and daytrips, we just have to change our mode transportation. Trains are exciting, and then there is biking, hiking, and even the bus. Try walking or hiking there and taking an Uber back. Thinking how to get there can be just as much fun as the journey itself because we are researching and learning about new neighborhoods.

Once we arrive, we can explore unique small shops, interesting restaurants, and parks or trails if we are love a challenge. It is all about leaving work behind. Focus mode on your iPhone works great. What if you can’t be reached for a few hours!

Vacations allow our minds to relax just by planning and being creative. At times, that way of thinkings allows us work out the encumbrances. Once we let our minds wander off, we can focus more on work as we come back a little more refreshed and ready for both our family and our jobs.