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Hourly vs. salaried: Are you getting paid for an extra day of work on Feb. 29?

This leap year, Canadians are finding themselves with an extra day on the calendar, and some are wondering if it means an extra payday. Every four years, we add a day to our calendars to align them with the Earth's orbit around the sun. Surprisingly, this time around, people are asking whether they will be compensated for working on February 29.

According to Brittany Taylor, an employment lawyer and partner at Rudner Law in the Greater Toronto Area, there's been a noticeable increase in interest regarding this topic. She suggests that the surge in awareness of employment rights could be attributed to the shift in perspective that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting employees to question anything that seems amiss in their work arrangements.

The discussion around compensation for an additional workday is nuanced and varies based on individual circumstances. Factors such as the frequency of pay, whether weekly, biweekly, or monthly, and whether an employee is on salary or paid hourly come into play.

Hourly workers seem to be the winners in this situation. As they are compensated based on the time they work, non-salaried employees can expect additional pay for every minute worked on February 29.

On the other hand, salaried workers may not see a significant change in their paychecks. Salaried employees receive their pay distributed across the pay period, typically 26 paychecks for biweekly employees or 12 for monthly payments. This means that most workers paid every two weeks won't experience any alterations to their pay for the extra day in February.

However, Ian Calvert, Vice President and Principal of Wealth Planning at HighView Financial Group, points out that some salaried employees might notice a slight bump in their paychecks this leap year. He explains that since there are 53 Mondays and Tuesdays in 2024 due to the leap year, those paid weekly or biweekly on these specific days could potentially receive 27 paychecks instead of the usual 26. It's important to note that not every employer may handle it this way.

Employees should refer to their contracts to understand the frequency of pay. If the contract specifies a weekly pay, employees can calculate an hourly rate, but it doesn't necessarily mean they will be paid hourly.

Brittany Taylor emphasizes some legal considerations for workers that might entitle them to additional pay on the leap day. For instance, if an extra day of work puts a salaried worker below the minimum wage, they must be compensated accordingly. Overtime rules also apply, meaning if the extra day pushes a worker beyond the weekly overtime limit, they are entitled to extra pay.

Furthermore, some unionized workplaces have negotiated leap day pay as part of their collective agreements, giving certain workers an extra layer of protection.

Despite the current interest in leap day compensation, employment lawyer Stuart Rudner notes that this is not a new issue. In his 25 years of practice, he has rarely encountered discussions on this topic. He highlights that the impact is minimal, affecting only a small percentage of workers. Just as the addition of a new statutory holiday can reduce the number of workdays, a leap year adds a working day once every four years, and the majority of workers are compensated accordingly.

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