Hey, By the Way, You Probably Didn’t Get Paid for Working Leap Day

The solar system just stole your wages
Hey, By the Way, You Probably Didn’t Get Paid for Working Leap Day

Unless you’re unfortunate to have a very rare birthday and parents who are looking for any way to deny you gifts, leap years are fun. They’re a cool little mixture of mathematics and what feels almost mystic. A day only seen once every four years feels like something pulled out of a fantasy novel, from the instructions of a book about crossing between worlds. 

But as you revel in the weirdness of a day that doesn’t always happen, if it’s a weekday, you might have another passing thought: Hey, am I getting paid for this? If you’re paid by the hour or by the day, nothing’s amiss here. An employer would have to do some extremely creative and legally inadvisable accounting in order to argue that this hour or day isn’t real.



What if you’re paid a monthly or yearly salary, though? If a salary’s intended for 365 days of service, are your employers getting away with a 366th day, scot-free? 

Bloomberg did a little investigation, and the labor experts they asked showed just how impressive their command of compensational judo is. Backed into a celestial corner, the labor lawyer and payroll management system CFO covered their ass with impressive speed. The lawyer’s reasoning is that a yearly salary is defined for exactly that: a year, not a year as a function of 365 consecutive days. A leap year is still a year, so there’s no foul play afoot. The CFO got even more into the nuts and bolts, saying, as if it was something he’d explained often, that he considered each yearly salary to be intended for 365.25 days. Sounds to me like, on the spot, he retconned his way into saying that we’re all being paid in solar years and always have been.

So hourly and daily workers aren’t affected, and monthly and yearly salaried employees might be getting boned in the most minuscule of ways, but for weekly workers — i.e., those living in the eye of this needle — leap years might actually net them an extra paycheck. Because 365 divided by 7 leaves a remainder of 1, there’s one day of the week that occurs 53 times each year. On leap years, with 366 days, there are two. If these days happen to be your weekly payday, congratulations: You just got paid for 53 weeks of work in a single year. 

Of course, as far as the actual, observable passage of time is concerned, this doesn’t really matter. You’re still being paid every seven days. It’s more of an accounting and tax nightmare than an actual windfall. 

Man, we were this close to there being something fun about payroll management.


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