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Why do we charge a two hour minimum for our services?

Why do we charge a two hour minimum for our services?
August 30, 2018 James Frost

This is a question that we often get asked when scheduling sign language interpreting services.  There are a number of reasons that we charge a two hour minimum. Before we get into these reasons, it would be useful to describe a common scenario: Emily, a patient of SuperHospital Medical Group, is a person who is deaf and seeking medical treatment. Emily makes an appointment with Dr. Awesome, who is a doctor that is employed by SuperHospital Medical Group. Emily requests a sign language interpreter for the appointment. SuperHospital Medical Group contacts Signing Edge for a sign language interpreter and is informed that we charge a two hour minimum.

Now, suppose that SuperHospital Medical Group states that there will have to be forms to be filled out by Emily. Here, the two hour minimum works to the advantage of SuperHospital Medical Group because the interpreter will be there for two hours, meaning that Emily will be able to ask questions about the forms while waiting to see the doctor. There is no need to rush through the appointment because the interpreter has to leave at a particular time. The two hour minimum ensures that the interpreter will be available for the two hours that is booked, thereby allowing SuperHospital Medical Group to permit Dr. Awesome to see other patients while simultaneously obtaining all the information needed from Emily on the forms.

In another scenario, let us suppose that Dr. Awesome is running 45 minutes behind on his appointments. The two hour minimum protects our clients by ensuring that there is a set amount of time (two hours) that the interpreter will be present. In this scenario, the two hour minimum ensures that a sign language interpreter will be present for Dr. Awesome to effectively communicate with Emily when it is Emily’s turn to see Dr. Awesome.

So clearly, from the two scenarios above, the two hour minimum works much like insurance. With insurance, people pay to ensure that they will be covered even if there are no accidents or mishaps for a long while. Paying for insurance, therefore, is seen as a good way to prevent financial hardships from occurring if an accident happens. Similarly, the two hour minimum should be seen as a good way to prevent our clients from being caught in a situation when they need to have an interpreter, but the interpreter is not available due to unforeseen circumstances.

Another excellent reason for us to charge a two hour minimum is fairness. From the sign language interpreter’s point of view, they often have to drive a lot of miles between appointments. For example, let us assume that for each appointment, the average drive time is between 15 to 30 minutes drive time and that interpreters are routinely expected to arrive 15 minutes early for each appointment. Let us also assume that the average assignment takes between 45 minutes to 1 hour. So in a typical 8-hour work day without the two hour minimum, interpreters would only be able to take 4 to 5 assignments. So, excluding the drive time that sign language interpreters typically are not paid for on an average assignment, sign language interpreters would only be earning four or five hours pay a day. Clearly, without the two hour minimum, sign language interpreters would not earn sufficient compensation to be able to pay their bills and living needs while simultaneously paying for their own driving expenses.

Another reason for the two hour minimum is logistics. The two hour minimum is an excellent way for Signing Edge to ensure that we do not inadvertently assign an interpreter to two assignments in the same time frame. The two hour minimum allows us to ensure that every client is appropriately served by a certified sign language interpreter.

The two hour minimum therefore should be seen as a win-win-win solution. Our clients win by guaranteeing an interpreter for a specific amount of time, Our interpreters win by ensuring that they get paid fairly, and our agency wins by ensuring that we are the trusted sign language interpreter provider for our clients.