A pay schedule is a timetable employers follow to pay their employees. It includes the work periods for which employees are paid in addition to their pay dates. There are several pay schedules from which to choose — for example, weekly or twice a month — and our payroll calendars make them easier to track.
If you want to avoid the hassle of manually tracking pay schedules and dates, consider using a small business payroll software like SurePayroll. It automatically calculates employee pay based on hourly rates and salaries, shift differentials, and overtime. SurePayroll also pays and files your payroll taxes for you without you having to lift a finger. Try it free for 30 days.
How Pay Schedules Work
Employers set a pay schedule to ensure their employees receive consistent paychecks. While most companies base their pay schedule on the needs of the business, there are labor laws in place that govern the minimum consistency with which these schedules must comply. Before choosing your pay schedule, it’s important to know how often your state requires employers to process payroll:
Here’s a map that shows payday frequency requirements by state:
Employers consider the minimum frequency at which they can legally process payroll — usually monthly — to set a regular pay schedule. Every pay schedule includes a pay period (pay cycle) or start and end dates for time worked, and a payday on which employees receive their paychecks. The payday varies depending on the employer; some designate the payday to be the last date of every pay period while others may opt to pay a week after the pay period ends. If you’re using payroll software or a professional employer organization (PEO), your payday options may be limited (for instance, some larger payroll services only allow you pay employees on Fridays).
Download the payroll calendar below that fits your payroll schedule:
Types of Pay Schedules
A year can be divided into 52 weeks, 365 days, or 12 months, which means there are numerous schedules you can use for your payroll. Some businesses are more concerned with weekly payouts and opt to pay once a week or every other week. Others divide each month in half and choose to pay in the middle and at the end. And, although not as frequent, a monthly pay schedule works better for some companies.
Here are some of the most common pay schedules from which you can choose:
- Weekly: Employees are paid once a week; their paychecks include hours worked (or salary) for a workweek — for instance, Sunday through Saturday. Many companies choose Friday as their payday since it’s the last weekday, but it can be any day of the week.
- Biweekly: Biweekly means payroll is run once every two weeks or every other week. Employees are paid for two workweeks. For most months, this equates to two paydays, but three months in the year (that vary from year to year) have three biweekly paydays.
- Semimonthly: Semimonthly, which is sometimes confused with biweekly, means twice a month. Many companies opt to pay on the 15th and last day of every month. If either of those days falls on a weekend, payroll is processed on the closest weekday before it. The pay period can include 14 to 16 days, depending on the number of days in the month.
- Monthly: With a monthly pay schedule, payroll is processed once monthly. It’s not as common as the others and results in only 12 pay dates in the year. Some companies pay employees on the last Friday of each month, while others opt to pay on the last day of the month. If that happens to be on a weekend, they may pay on the last weekday before it.
Although pay dates are important, it’s vital that you know the work days for which employees are being paid. There are numerous ways to structure the amount of time you leave between the end of a pay period and payday, and some states have specific regulations in place. For instance, unless there’s a written agreement, Iowa only allows employers a 12-day maximum between payday and the last day of the employee’s work period for which they’re being paid.
Let’s look at an example of how an employer sets a pay schedule.
Dorothy is opening a restaurant and decides to pay her employees on a weekly pay schedule. She’ll need to decide when the workweek will begin and end in addition to the day employees will be paid. Let’s assume she’s going to pay for all hours worked from Sunday to Saturday of every week, and payday will be every Friday. This is her pay schedule.
Paying in Arrears vs Current
In the example above, Dorothy is “paying current.” When you pay current, you pay employees as soon as or before their pay cycle ends. To reiterate, Dorothy chose Sunday through Saturday as her weekly pay cycle with Friday as the payday. This means she’ll have to estimate the work hours for Saturday because employees will be paid for Saturday before it arrives.
Paying in arrears means there’s a delay between the time employees work and when they receive pay for that work. This delay could be a week or more depending on state laws. Remember, by default, Iowa’s maximum delay is 12 days.
Here’s an example of paying employees in arrears:
Jeff sets his pay period as Sunday through Saturday but opts to pay Friday of the following week (six days after the last workday). While this is sometimes a nuisance to new employees who may have to work a week “in the hole,” meaning they’re not paid at the end of their first week, it can be beneficial for some employers.
If you pay your employees for time that has not yet passed, there could be unexpected changes in their schedule for which you’ll need to make adjustments on the next pay period. This can become cumbersome as you’ll have to keep track of pay cycles for which you’ve already processed payroll; you must comply with federal overtime laws — paying time and a half (1.5 times regular hourly pay) for hours worked over 40 in a workweek.
Determining Whether to Pay In Arrears or Current
There is no hard rule guiding whether you should pay in arrears or current. You should consider the needs of your business and your employees. Paying in arrears gives you time to gather all timesheets, tip reports, and other information to ensure you process payroll correctly; there’s no need to forecast employee schedules.
Paying current is less confusing for some employees and works well in certain instances. Let’s assume a company has a pay cycle of Sunday through Saturday with Friday being the payday. If the employees only work weekdays, Monday through Friday, there would be less guesswork. Although Saturday is a part of the pay cycle, the employees don’t work on Saturdays. It also works for salaried employees who are paid the same amount every pay period, regardless of hours worked.
Greg Kuchcik, Vice President of Human Resources at Zeeto.io, advises employers to add in a time buffer to ensure payroll runs smoothly:
“Give yourself some time to process payroll. Building in a delay of a couple of days to a week will allow you enough time to add in sick time, hour discrepancies, and incorrect time cards. If you are trying to pay people up to the day, any last-minute changes will cause headaches for your payroll person. A delay only affects people when they start at the company and they get extra pay if/when they leave.”
— Greg Kuchcik, Vice President of Human Resources, Zeeto.io
How To Use Pay Period Calendars & Charts
Using a pay period calendar and/or chart can help you avoid missing a payday. Bookkeepers find them useful when they need to record and forecast payroll expenses, and employees might want a copy to reference if they get confused (especially if payroll is paid in arrears). To use a pay period calendar, you must choose a pay schedule so you know what to print. We have 2019 and 2020 calendars for the most common pay schedules.
Choose Pay Schedule
Before printing one of our calendars, consider whether you’re paying weekly, biweekly, semimonthly, or monthly. You’ll need to print the chart and calendar specifically for your pay schedule. If you’re using multiple pay schedules to pay employees — some employers pay hourly and salaried employees differently — you’ll need to print multiple calendars and charts.
Print Calendar & Chart Per Chosen Pay Schedule
Once you find the calendar and chart that correspond with your pay schedule, you’ll need to select, download, save, and print them. The calendar is a great visual you can follow along with each day so you always know where you are in the pay schedule the chart presents the pay schedule information in a more direct and concise format.
Here are printable 2019 and 2020 calendars and charts for the four most common pay schedules:
- 2019 Weekly Payroll Schedule Calendar
- 2020 Weekly Payroll Schedule Calendar
- 2019 – 2020 Weekly Payroll Schedule Chart
- 2019 Biweekly Payroll Schedule Calendar
- 2020 Biweekly Payroll Schedule Calendar
- 2019 – 2020 Biweekly Payroll Schedule Chart
- 2019 Semimonthly Payroll Schedule Calendar
- 2020 Semimonthly Payroll Schedule Calendar
- 2019 – 2020 Semimonthly Payroll Schedule Chart
- 2019 Monthly Payroll Schedule Calendar
- 2020 Monthly Payroll Schedule Calendar
- 2019 – 2020 Monthly Payroll Schedule Chart
Track Employee Hours Using the Pay Period Chart
Remember what a pay period is; after printing your payroll chart, you can use it when calculating your employees’ work hours for the pay period. The chart lists the beginning and end dates you need to consider for each payroll, so you can easily ensure you’re only paying for time worked in the appropriate period. It’s a good idea to require your hourly employees to submit timesheets based on the pay schedule you set.
If you pay a biweekly pay schedule, require that your employees submit their timesheets every two weeks (or weekly if you want to start on payroll calculations early). You won’t need to track hours for salaried employees, just the days for which you’re paying them.
Pay Employees On Designated Pay Date
The pay period calendar makes it easy to see each pay date because they’re circled. You can post the calendar on your desk or wall for easy reference. You can also write in additional information or reminders to help you keep track of other important dates. Just follow along each day, and you’ll always know when payday is approaching. This really comes in handy if you process payroll manually.
Of course, you won’t need to print out a calendar if you use payroll software. SurePayroll lets you set up your payroll to run automatically on whatever pay schedule you choose. It also calculates, files, and pays your payroll taxes to ensure you stay compliant with all federal and state labor laws.
How To Determine Your Pay Schedule
When determining your pay schedule, you should consider numerous factors, including the industry your business is in, average wages of your employees, company cash flow, and so on.
It’s important that the frequency at which you decide to pay your employees flows seamlessly with your business model.
Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, explains why cost and time were her primary evaluators when setting a pay period for her business:
“When considering what is the best way to set a pay period, I really evaluated cost and time. I had to really ask myself if I had enough time and the funds to run payroll weekly, biweekly, or monthly. For new business owners, this decision may not come lightly either so I recommend speaking with both an accountant or payroll provider before you decide when you want to run your checks.”
— Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation.com
Here are some factors you should consider when determining your pay schedule:
- Average wages: Restaurant employees who earn tipped minimum wage may be better suited for weekly paychecks. Forcing employees who receive low wages to wait two to three weeks for payday could damage morale.
- Company cash flow: Paying weekly means you must have enough cash available to pay more often. Some businesses have cash flow cycles that require more time before bank accounts are replenished — like stores that sell merchandise on credit.
- Profitability: Processing payroll more often usually costs more money ($50 to $100 per pay run for 10 employees), and some businesses, especially startups, have to manage their expenses more carefully. Using providers like Gusto allows employers to run unlimited monthly payrolls at no extra cost.
Common Pay Schedules By Industry
Industry is another factor that you should consider when choosing your pay schedule. Certain industries have norms, and you may need to follow your industry’s tradition to remain a competitive employer. Keep in mind that biweekly is the most common pay schedule overall, with 36.5% of U.S. private businesses paying their employees every two weeks.
Here is a list of the most common pay schedules and the industries that follow their pay frequency:
- Weekly: Construction, manufacturing, restaurants, mining
- Biweekly: Education, health services, leisure and hospitality, information technology
- Semimonthly: Financial, information technology, professional and business services; semimonthly is the second least frequently used pay schedule.
- Monthly: Professional and business services; monthly is used the least frequently of the pay schedules.
After seeing your payroll system in action, take note of what’s working and what’s not. Are employees complaining about how long it takes for them to receive their paychecks? Are new employees confused about the time they’re being compensated for, or are terminated workers claiming they should’ve received an additional paycheck? Are your cash balances flowing systemically, or are there shortages? Assess the situation, and change your pay schedule if you notice any major problems.
Setting Up a Pay Schedule With Payroll Providers
With a payroll service, setting up a payroll schedule usually takes seconds. Gusto allows you to set your schedule as weekly, biweekly, semimonthly, or monthly. Paydays can be any day (Sunday through Saturday).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Pay Schedules
In this article, we discussed the different types of pay schedules. However, we realize you may have more questions, and we address them here. If you have a question that’s not on our list, feel free to share it with us in our forum, and we’ll provide an answer.
What is a pay period vs a pay schedule?
Some websites use the two terms interchangeably; however, a pay period is a period of time for which employers pay their employees for hours worked. It includes beginning and end dates that the employers use to measure which work hours should be paid on each paycheck. A pay schedule is similar because it includes the pay period, but it also includes the pay date.
What’s the difference between biweekly and semimonthly pay schedules?
A biweekly pay schedule means employees are paid once every two weeks on the same day. For most months, this will equate to two paydays per month; however, depending on the year, there may be two to three months that have three biweekly paydays. Semimonthly payroll is different because it guarantees two pay periods each month. Usually, this is on the 15th and the last weekday of each month, which means the paydays can vary (Monday versus Friday).
What are the advantages and disadvantages of paying employees weekly?
Employees tend to prefer being paid weekly because it’s the most frequent of all the major pay schedules. They don’t have to work very long before receiving a paycheck, and this can help them manage their finances better. However, it can be more costly for employers who use pay services that charge per payroll; it can also create more work, especially if employers manually run their payroll each week and/or have to collect timesheets and perform paycheck calculations.
How often do most employers pay their employees?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, most employers pay their employees biweekly. This is 36.5% compared to private businesses that pay weekly, coming in at a close 32.4%. Semimonthly is much less frequent, and monthly is most rare.
Choosing the payroll schedule that best suits your business is essential, and following it consistently is even more important. Our payroll calendars and charts make it easy to track the beginning and end dates of your pay cycle along with your pay dates, so you never miss payday or run payroll for the wrong period.
If you want an easy way to pay your employees regardless of your pay schedule, consider SurePayroll. You can choose from the four major payroll schedules and even set up multiple schedules if needed. Start a 30-day free trial today.