The last leap year was 2020 which makes 2024 our next 366-day-long year, with an extra day added to our calendar (February 29).

This is now only a few weeks away, but some of you might be wondering about what that means in terms of work.

A typical year typically contains 52 weeks and one day, but, thanks to the extra day in February, leap years have 52 weeks and two days.

While this may not be big news for many, who will carry on as usual, some may wonder whether they should be being paid extra for the additional day's work.

Is it a public holiday? If we have to work will we be paid extra for the extra day? Well, with the help of the legal website People Management, we'll try and answer all that.

Can employees be forced to work the leap day?

Amy Collins, a senior associate in TLT’s employment team, says: “29 February does not have a special status like public holidays, as such if it falls on one of the employee's normal working days it will be treated like any other working day; ie, they will need to work it.”

This year, it falls on a Thursday, which is a typical day in the working week.

Salaried workers 

Nicola Wallbank, an employment partner at Freeths, says employers with salaried workers who are paid at very close to minimum wage “do need to take care to ensure that working extra leap hours does not tip their salaried workers below minimum wage rates”.

“This would be a serious compliance issue and could result in an employer being named by HMRC as non-compliant over a relatively small and accidental oversight,” she says. 

“Rates should be checked and, if an issue is identified, a pay top up should be made. Some employers will offer time off in lieu of time worked on the 29th to reduce this risk. 

“Employers should also be mindful of how the extra day impacts on payroll. If you generally pay on the last day of the month, and this will result in employees being paid a day later than they might expect, this should be communicated to staff in good time to enable them to make financial arrangements.” 

Recommended reading: 

  • Is 2024 a leap year or not? Find out when & why they happen
  • When is Easter 2024? Key dates for the bank holiday

Do you pay employees more in a leap year? 

Alan Price, CEO of BrightHR added: “BrightHR is receiving an increasing number of calls from employers who are trying to figure out whether they need to pay their staff more with an extra day coming up in February."

“The answer is not entirely clear cut, but failing to pay the correct amount could see the employer facing legal risk and fines.” 

Alan Lewis, employment partner at Constantine Law, says that, ultimately, it all depends on the employee’s pay structure and that if employees are paid hourly with a weekly pay reference, their pay won’t be affected by the leap day, as adding an extra day to February does not change a seven-day week to an eight-day week. 

Hourly workers

However, he explains that hourly workers who are paid monthly will see an increase in their pay as a result of the extra day because they will have worked for 21 days in February instead of the usual 20 days.