Short Answer: In most cases, per diem employees can work as much as their employers will allow. However, some states have regulations in place that set a maximum number of hours or consecutive days a person can work. For more information on federal and state regulations for per diem employees, see below.
How Many Hours Can a Per Diem Employee Work?
Per diem (literally “per day”) employees are like independent contractors in that they don’t have a set schedule. They work as needed and with a flexible schedule, are paid per day, and may not receive benefits. In general, a per diem employee can work as many hours as their company’s policy allows. Nurses, health care professionals, and substitute teachers often work on a per diem basis.
There is no federal law that caps the number of hours someone can work. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not limit the number of hours per day or per week that employees (aged 16 and older) can be required to work. However, some states do set limits on how many hours or consecutive days employees can work based on certain circumstances. For example, several states have a “day of rest” law, which mandates that employees are entitled to 24 consecutive hours of rest during a calendar week. Virtually all per diem jobs are professions that require a level of higher education or have a minimum age requirement of 18, so labor regulations regarding minors do not apply.
We researched labor laws for all 50 states and the District of Columbia; see the table below for a breakdown of which states have laws regulations the hours and days adult employees can work:
If you have a question about your state’s labor laws, you can visit the Wage and Hour Division of the Labor Department’s website.
Note: Private companies that employee per diem workers can also set their own policies limiting the number of hours a per diem employee can work. If you are currently or are looking to be employed as a per diem employee, you should check with your employer to see if it has policies in place to limit working hours.
Per Diem Employee vs Per Diem Allowance
You may hear people use the phrase “per diem” to describe a special kind of allowance given to employees for expenses. Be aware that this is something entirely different from being a per diem employee. According to the General Services Administration (GSA), a per diem is an allowance for lodging (excluding taxes), meals, and incidental expenses. The GSA establishes per diem rates for destinations within the 48 continental United States; you can find out more at GSA.gov.
Per diem employees can usually work as many hours as their employers allow. Although a number of states limit the number of consecutive hours and/or days an employee can work, federal law has no such restrictions.
If you are looking for jobs with the opportunity for flexible scheduling, you can check out our list of work-from-home jobs.