Earn a fixed salary? You might be working for free tomorrow

Rohith Krishnan was “bummed” when he found out he’s not getting paid for the extra day of work during leap years. 

Employers typically pay their salaried workers the same yearly amount, whether the calendar year has 365 or 366 days, unless the contract states otherwise. As a result, the average salaried worker is potentially losing out on hundreds of dollars, while employers collectively save billions.

“You still have your expenses for that day,” the senior tax associate working in Toronto pointed out. Meals, gas and transit fares still add up for many people on Feb. 29, Krishnan said. 

“I think we should be compensated.”

A man is shown outside in front of an office building.
Rohith Krishnan, a senior tax associate in downtown Toronto, says salaried employees should be compensated for working an extra day during leap years. (Jason Trout/CBC)

“I think it’s pretty brutal. I know, for myself, if I’m working, I want to be paid. Day-to-day things cost and prices are going up,” said William Georgopoulos, who spoke to CBC News in Toronto’s financial district.

But not everyone is losing sleep over this. Many said being salaried comes with a slew of coveted benefits, such as massage therapy and dental care, as well as flexibility with their schedules.

Sara Loriot, an executive at an investment management firm in the city, argues it’s a bit of give and take.

A woman is shown working at a desktop computer.
The leap day pay discrepancy is one example of the broader issue of ‘wage theft,’ said Ella Bedard, a lawyer and organizer with Workers’ Action Centre, a non-profit organization in Toronto. (Hugo Levesque/CBC)

“I’m not necessarily a 9-to-5 kind of gal even if that’s what my contract says. The reality is, I’m expected to yield a certain amount of work and that’s what I’m getting paid to do,” she said.

“It’s a quarter of a day every four years,” said Ian Reed, an accountant from Kitchener, Ont. 

“That doesn’t really kind of move that bottom line for me a whole lot.”

Is this ‘wage theft’?

But for many, that extra work day adds up to hundreds of dollars.

Consider this: the average salaried worker earned the equivalent of $43.88 an hour, including overtime pay, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada. So for a typical eight-hour day, someone would be losing out on $351, before taxes and other deductions.

That means, with about 6.5 million salaried workers in this country — more than a third of Canada’s workforce — employers could collectively save about $2 billion.

“We use the term ‘wage theft’ because it is a form of theft that workers are experiencing,” said Ella Bedard, lawyer and organizer with the Workers’ Action Centre, which advocates for better working conditions for people in the Greater Toronto Area.

She says the leap day issue is part of a much broader problem her organization is looking to tackle where workers are “not getting paid everything that they’re legally entitled to.” That includes unpaid overtime, unpaid public holidays and withheld employee benefits.

This is a real crisis in Canada and people are feeling it more because…

Read More: Earn a fixed salary? You might be working for free tomorrow

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