Written by Travis Kemper, PT, DPT — Jared Casazza, PT, DPT — Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC
Important Aspects of a Travel Therapy Contract
If you’re like us, and most people we know, you rarely read an online contract or terms of service; just blindly hit the accept button online and assume all the legal rambling for your credit card and other contracts is just the normal stuff. However, you’ll want to get in the habit of making sure you analyze a travel therapy contract since it is much more important. Your contract is your protection, so you want to make sure it says what you want it to say. This is always the document to fall back on if any problems arise with either your travel company or the facility at which you’re working. Luckily, in our experience, these contracts are pretty short (only a page or two) aren’t filled with tons of legal nonsense and we can help you to understand exactly what everything means.
Here are the most important aspects:
- Start and end dates: Seems straight forward, but always make sure to double check that it’s the contract length you agreed on and the dates that you desire. Then make sure to mark your calendar accordingly. We’ve seen a traveler and the facility have different assumptions regarding start/end dates which led to significant confusion, and ultimately the traveler being cut out of work mid-week without a plan.
- Pay: Make sure your hourly pay and stipends are what you agreed upon with your recruiter. We have caught errors before, and it’s doubtful that that the recruiter/company had any malicious intent. Things happen, mistakes get made, and you want to find those mistakes before you sign a contract and are stuck with something other than what you thought you were agreeing to. Also, you want to check your pay breakdown according to IRS and GSA guidelines. Check out this post on pay to better understand how pay packages work and details on how to calculate exactly what your take home pay should be after taxes.
- Required time off (if applicable): We often build vacations and long weekends into our contracts in advance, so it’s agreed upon by us, the travel company, and the facility. This also applies to holidays or special occasions for which you plan to return home (weddings, graduations, birthdays, etc.).
- Cancellation policy: This is the policy that allows you, or the facility, to terminate the contract. Generally it’s going to be either two weeks or 30 days notice. This provides you security in case the facility cancels your contract, so you can make arrangements regarding living situation and finances. Ideally we recommend to always push for 30 days notice on any contract so that if the facility needs to end your contract early for any reason you’ll have time to find another assignment before the 30 days is up.
- Guaranteed hours: We all have always had guaranteed hours in our contracts, and we love that security. If your facility gets slow or has low census and needs to cut hours, you have the security of a guaranteed salary, so your pay is never in question. Sometimes the facility will guarantee 40 hours, sometimes only 32, but either way, that gives you a guaranteed base salary to budget with. A 40 hour guarantee is the ideal situation and should be pushed for in most cases. 40 hour guarantees on every contract for Jared has led to thousands of dollars of free money due to being paid for hours that weren’t actually worked for things like low census, holidays, and inclement weather!
- Overtime Pay: This is one that we all learned the hard way. With your decreased taxable hourly rate as a traveler also comes a decreased standard overtime rate. You can, and we recommend you do, negotiate a higher overtime rate that makes overtime worth your while. Personally, as a PT, we ask for a minimum of $45/hour but have often been able to get rates of up to $70/hour. Either way, make sure you at least get a rate that makes it worth your time. Most of the time, the facility won’t want you getting overtime as a traveler anyway, but Jared has worked over 400 hours of overtime in less than three years, so it definitely isn’t unheard of and can mean a lot of extra money when available. The bottom line with overtime is that if you agree to work overtime, you want to be compensated accordingly and negotiating a higher rate makes that possible.
- Reduced Hours Fee: You shouldn’t need to worry about this if you have 40 hours guaranteed, but if you don’t have guaranteed hours, or the guarantee is less than 40 hours, this statement says that the travel company can decrease your housing and per diem pay. You want to watch out for this if you don’t have guaranteed hours and be aware when making a budget that your pay could be lower if census drops at some point.
We hope this helps you better understand a travel contract and gives you some insight on things to watch out for so that you don’t make some of the mistakes that we did when starting out.
Is there anything we are missing? Feel free to send us a message or comment below letting us know! Also, if you want help understanding your travel contract, send us a message here and we will gladly take a look for free and see if we can offer some advice!
5 thoughts on “Understanding a Travel Therapy Contract”
In terms of covered expenses traveling from home, literally cross country (VA to OR) what are the range of possible expenses a PT should expect the company to cover? Should this be something agreed upon BEFORE getting too deep in the application process or near the end ?
Thanks so much for your help!!
Hey! The first things to remember about reimbursements is that they come out of the pay package just like your regular hourly pay and stipends. Companies will usually be willing to reimburse you for just about any expenses related to getting to and from an assignment because those reimbursements just reduce your weekly pay and doesn’t effect their bottom line. Some travelers would rather have a higher weekly pay and decide to forgo reimbursements for that reason while others don’t fare as much about a high weekly pay and want as many reimbursements as possible up front. We’re firmly in the latter camp. Besides reimbursements for getting to and from an assignment (usually based on mileage), companies also often reimburse for state licenses, drug tests, CPR certification, and also occasionally for things like scrubs. You should always agree on these things with the recruiter before accepting a contract!