Why Don’t We Get Paid Extra During Leap Years?

Why Don’t We Get Paid Extra During Leap Years?
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Dear Lifehacker, I’m on a fixed salary, which is based on the amount of hours I work per year. However, on leap years the pay remains the same as non-leap years. Shouldn’t I be getting paid eight hours extra? Or am I expected to work an entire day for free? Thanks, Feeling Ripped Off

Dear FRO,

In short, you’re expected to work an entire day for free. Back in the time-clock era, workers’ pay was calculated daily based on when they punched in and punched out. These days, most Australians have a fixed annual wage based on a 38-hour work week.

Unfortunately, if you’re not covered by a specific award or enterprise agreement, any overtime you work usually goes unpaid. Whether you religiously clock off on the dot or stay back several hours every day, your pay packet remains the same.

The same goes for leap years. These were inserted into the Gregorian calendar around 400 years ago in a bid to keep each calendar year synced with the Earth’s circumnavigation of the Sun. Without leap years, the calendar months and astronomical seasons would slowly drift apart, resulting in the Australian summer falling in June some 750 years from now.

While this is great for future generations, it means that most workers on fixed annual wages are condemned to a full day of lost earnings. If you got paid $50,000 last year and didn’t receive a pay rise, you’re going to get $50,000 this year too.

This might seem bitterly unfair on paper, but really, it’s not that big of a deal. When you think about it, you’re still working five days of the week, just like normal. It’s not like the government is adding two Mondays in a row. (If anyone from the Department of Employment is reading this, don’t get any ideas!)

Still, if this (literal) astronomical injustice is irking you, we suggest you indulge in the time-honored tradition of chucking a sickie. You can find tips on how to pull this off successfully here. Enjoy your “extra” day off!


This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • You work 3/4 of an extra day on leap years, and 1/4 of a day less on every other year.

    If you want to be even more strictly correct, then you work an extra 303/400 of an extra day on each leap year, and work 97/400 of a day less on a standard year – because the mean length of a year is precisely 365.2425 days.

  • Your yearly pay is broken down into a per hour rate on which you are paid. So unless you get your whole whack in the year at once, yes, you’re working an extra day, also think wether the year stats on a sat sun or monday as that will effect how many days you work a year, plus if Xmas day is on a sat etc.

    So you get paid hourly, you work 38 hours a week, you get paid that. You don’t miss out.

    • If you’re on a fixed annual salary, you get paid the same amount each year. So technically, you work an extra day on leap years and don’t get paid for it.

      • Alternatively, you’re paid marginally more 3 out of 4 years, and balance it out in the leap year. If you balance it out that way, on a roughly average $70k job its less than $2 a week thats different, hardly a world changing amount.

  • I still haven’t been paid for last year’s leap second.
    I’ll probably have to take it as time in lieu, even though I don’t really need a holiday right now.

  • Take leap years into account when negotiating your salary. If you want to be paid for the extra day, then ask for (((salary/365)*366)-salary)/4 extra for your annual salary. About $34 a year for every $50,000 you earn.

    • since no contractor is paid monthly, this statement makes no sense. Contractors would be paid weekly, fortnightly etc so the number of days in a month is meaningless

      Also, the number of week days this year is actually the same as last year, the extra day is actually an extra Saturday, so there is no impact on the total amount you will earn for the year

    • Unless you are recording your hours worked somewhere, you are being paid an annual salary. The fact that you are being paid fortnightly simply means that they have divided your annual salary amount into 26 equal payments instead of one big one

    • No it is a salary. Sometimes I work 50 hrs a week, other times 75, depending on shifts. The only variance to my pay is working on RDOs, where I’ll get a day in lieu payment (paid an extra day rate).

      I get paid every fortnight on a Thursday. The amount I get paid is identical every Thursday (except the aforementioned DIL payments).

      So if there is a leap year, there will be one less day at the start of my first pay cycle in the next year due to it being counted in the leap year. Therefore I’m paid for the extra day.

      • I only just woke up before and couldn’t even see my phone properly. Maths:
        365 days in a year = 26 fortnights and 1 remaining day
        This means that each year the pay DATE should decrease by 1. In a leap year, it will decrease by 2. Meaning you get paid for the leap day.

        People who get paid monthly though, they can potentially get screwed over, unless their AWA/EBA whatever lists the day rate, and then mathematically calculates how much the average is for the year including leap days. Most large companies will do this though in my experience. It’s just most employees are self-entitled and assume they’re being screwed when they read things like this article online.

  • Don’t forget everyone, if you are on a salary and do any overtime, you are working for free. 5 hours overtime per week is an 11% pay cut. When you struggle to get a 1%-3% annual pay increase, why would you voluntarily take an 11% pay cut?

  • There are actually 261 weekdays this year, just the same as last year and 2014 and 2013.
    Those years all had 104 Saturdays or Sundays, but this year has 105. So actually your extra day is a weekend.

  • The statement about working a day for free is misleading. The majority of salaried employment contracts in Australia (which are the ones you are talking about above), include a clause relating to “reasonable” overtime. This clause essentially protects the employer from having to specifically account for every single fluctuation that could affect pay (like leap years, number of week days, number of public holidays etc). All of these fluctuations are absorbed into the base rate in a “better off overall” calculation, which essentially means that if the employer decided to switch to paying for every hour you worked instead of an annual salary, they would be able to reduce your base rate significantly, essentially wiping out any benefits you may get from the extra overtime or days pay.

    You are not being ripped off, you just don’t understand what is involved in coming up with an annual salary amount

  • Only someone in the public service could possibly have a work ethic low enough and sense of entitlement high enough to be indignant about that.


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