Skip to main content

February of 2024 features an extra day, leading many to wonder whether employees are entitled to extra compensation, or if their work on the leap day will go unpaid.

“We’ve got a lot of employer clients calling in regarding this extra day in the calendar,” says Natalie Shallow, the head of service for small business HR software and support services provider BrightHR Canada. “The main question we’re getting is whether they should pay employees for the extra day in the calendar, and how to navigate that.”

The answer, according to Ms. Shallow, varies based on how the staff member is compensated. Shift workers and those who are paid hourly will be compensated for any work they put in on February 29th, as it will contribute to the hours they log, but the answer is less clear for those who receive an annual sum.

“For [those who are compensated on] the 15th and last day of the month it’s always two pay periods per month, so they actually end up losing out on that extra day,” says Ms. Shallow.

The only potential exception to that rule pertains to those who earn minimum wage, but are compensated on an annual basis. Ms. Shallow says those employees may see their total compensation for the year dip below the provincially mandated requirement, and thus may be entitled to extra compensation.

“This is actually the most important thing to consider when we talk about the extra day in the calendar, because a salaried employee who makes minimum wage, if they’re not getting paid for this extra day, they might end up falling below the minimum,” she says.

Ms. Shallow advises employers to avoid offering salaried workers the absolute minimum and suggests bumping up their pay enough to protect against unforeseen complications — like a leap year — that may result in compensation falling below the legal requirement.

Most Canadian salaried workers, however, shouldn’t expect to get paid extra for working on February 29th, unless they had the foresight to include it in their employment contract prior to signing.

“Employees will have to have the reasonable expectation that they’re just going to end up working an extra day this year,” says Jon Pinkus, a Toronto-based employment lawyer and partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP. “The only basis that they would have to [be paid extra] is if they negotiated for it in their contract, but typically the terms of employment will say you are paid this amount per year, period.”

Mr. Pinkus adds that most salaried employees enter an agreement with their employers that includes an annual salary, and the terms of that arrangement don’t change every four years to accommodate the extra day in February.

“If the terms of their employment are, ‘you work for us every year, Monday to Friday, and this is what you’re paid,’ then that’s the deal,” he says. “A leap year is not an unforeseen event, it happens every four years, and that’s just part of the deal.”

However, even in a leap year, February is still the shortest month. Workers who are paid twice a month could also look at it as getting paid more per day in February, when compared to say January, which has 31 days.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe