Rivermate | Product owner - Andrew Simon

Global Work Glossary

What defines a pay period in employment?

A pay period, also referred to as a payroll period or payroll frequency, delineates the timeframe during which employee work hours are recorded and compensated. Companies adopt various pay periods, typically weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly, with the payday often not aligning precisely with the end of the pay period due to processing requirements.

Types of Pay Periods in the United States

  1. Monthly Pay Period: Employees receive 12 paychecks annually. While state laws vary, in states like Iowa, employees must be paid at least once a month, with paydays within 12 days post the end of the pay period.
  2. Semi-Monthly Pay Period: Employees are paid twice a month, totaling 24 paychecks annually. Pay periods typically cover the first and second halves of the month, with adjustments for February's shorter length.
  3. Bi-Weekly Pay Period: Pay periods occur every two weeks, resulting in 26 paychecks per year. Occasionally, leap years may include an additional pay period due to February's extended duration.
  4. Weekly Pay Period: Employees receive pay on a weekly basis, resulting in 52 paychecks annually, usually distributed on the same day each week, commonly Fridays.

Factors Influencing Pay Cycle Selection

Several factors impact the choice of pay cycle:

  • Budget: Considerations include payroll costs and cash flow management, balancing employee preferences with financial feasibility.
  • Company Size: The number of employees influences payroll complexity and resource allocation.
  • Taxes and Benefits: Variations in tax obligations and benefit contributions affect payroll decisions.
  • Employee Type: Distinctions between hourly and salaried employees may impact pay cycle selection.
  • Industry Norms: Practices within specific industries may influence pay period preferences.

Choosing an Optimal Pay Cycle

Selecting the ideal pay cycle involves evaluating various factors while maintaining compliance with state regulations. Employers can utilize payroll services to streamline processing, mitigating complexities associated with different pay cycles. Flexibility exists to adjust pay schedules as businesses evolve, ensuring alignment with organizational needs and legal requirements.

Rivermate | A 3d rendering of earth

Hire your employees globally with confidence

We're here to help you on your global hiring journey.