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What Does Per Diem Mean for a Job

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Written by Amanda Nunez

It’s a phrase most members of the workforce are probably familiar with, but what exactly does per diem mean for the employee—and for jobs those employees can take on?

What Is The Meaning of Per Diem?

The phrase per diem is of Latin origin and translates to “for each day” or “per day.” In the world of employment compensation, per diem is a term used to refer to two different types of employee payment.

One is a per diem payment. This is typically a set allowance afforded to employees who travel for work and who, during that trip, will be required to stay overnight. The per diem amount paid is usually meant to cover meals, with accommodations paid separately or pre-paid by an employer. However, a per diem amount may also include a set amount meant for accommodations. Any mileage is paid using a standardized business mileage reimbursement rate that’s maintained by the United States Internal Revenue Service.

If this type of per diem payment doesn’t cover the expenses incurred by an employee, they’re responsible for the difference. Conversely, if an employee chooses to make purchasing decisions that come in below the afforded per diem budget, they’re under no obligation to return that money to their employer and are able to keep the remaining funds.

This type of per diem transaction usually requires that the employee be involved in a traditional relationship with an employer—full- or part-time, hourly or salaried, at will or contracted. The second kind of per diem payment is utilized in a non-traditional type of employment. It’s the kind of per diem we’ll discuss in this article.

Per diem employment is employment that’s offered on a day-to-day basis and doesn’t fall into the aforementioned traditional employment structures. These are usually roles put into action on an as-needed basis that will cover for regular employees out on vacation or with illness, fill in for employees who abruptly leave positions, or step in to help with abnormally large endeavors such as inventories or audits.
An employee who chooses to go the per diem route either has their daily rate set and known to employers or knows how much they’ll be paid per day because it’s part of the employer’s terms.

Pros of Per Diem Jobs

Simple Payment Structures

An employee who chooses to go the per diem route either has their daily rate set and known to employers or knows how much they’ll be paid per day because it’s part of the employer’s terms. That per day payment is a guaranteed sum, too, regardless of whether an employee works a short day or their full eight hours.

Protections of Regular Employees

They may not be official parts of the team, but as they’re still workers in a legal workplace, per diem employees are entitled to the protections enjoyed by full- or part-time employees. This includes overtime laws, meaning a per diem employee must be paid a set amount for doing up to eight hours of work, and if the job requires anything over eight hours, they are entitled to a bump in pay that matches the bump of any regular employee. Per diem employees are also protected by the same labor laws, meaning they shouldn’t be taken advantage of or put into unsafe situations.

Try it Before Committing to It

Have you ever started a job without a full picture of what was expected from you in that role? Experiences like this can promote growth and push employees to be better, but they can just as easily lead to poor performance, unhappy employees, and early exits. Day-to-day employment can allow per diem employees to try positions and responsibilities before taking them on in a more serious, permanent role.

If a worker is already trained in the field which they’re pursuing per diem work, they can utilize this on-the-job time to hone and expand their skill set, improving the chance they’ll pick up a position in their chosen area of expertise.

Networking

When a worker is employed per diem, they’re still meeting professionals and putting their work in front of managers. Those professionals could become sources for job opportunities or provide valuable advice. Those managers could choose to hire a per diem employee, suggest them to another employer with an open position, or become a valuable reference on a resume.

Cons of Per Diem Jobs

No Benefits

Employees going the per diem route are covered by a number of labor laws, but they aren’t required to be covered under an employer’s health plan. Working on a day-to-day basis means going outside the traditional employer-provided healthcare system, while per diem employment may be impossible for those who require steady health insurance.

Unreliable Pay

Per diem employment may fit a worker’s skillset, schedule and lifestyle, but it may also prove to be too sporadic to maintain. If an employee is finding day-to-day work to be in short supply and they have steady expenses to pay, they may need to embrace the reliable nature of traditional employment relationships.

What Are Common Per Diem Jobs?


You probably have experience with one of the most common per diem jobs: the substitute teacher. Think about how subs would cover different classrooms for different periods of time and try to operate classrooms in a normal way.

Per diem work is available in a variety of fields and availability in your area may be impacted by the ongoing shortage of workers. To find opportunities for you, visit TheJobNetwork and begin your search! Per diem employment is a great way to earn extra money, try something new or gain valuable experience on a professional level. It’s a viable option for a number of people in the workforce, and it could be for you, too.

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About the author

Amanda Nunez

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