Leap year means unpaid day of work for Ontario and Canada salary workers: Advocacy groups

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Published February 12, 2024 at 12:26 pm

2024 is a leap year, which means this February has 29 days – but there’s been more discussion recently as to what this means for salary workers.

Those who work on Thursday, Feb. 29 will be working an extra day this year, but their yearly salary will remain the same, meaning they’ll essentially be working for free.

Alternatively, those who are paid hourly might get additional pay for working on the extra day, though it can often depend on the employer.

Some worker advocacy groups, such as the Decent Work and Health Network, say this unpaid extra day for salary workers is another example of wage theft in Ontario.

“The epidemic of wage theft significantly undermines the health and wellbeing of our communities. Our political system is failing to protect workers from exploitation and hardship,” the network said earlier this month in regards to working on the 29th.

Advocacy group Justice for Workers shared a similar sentiment, saying that working this extra day is akin to workers not getting paid overtime, public holiday pay, or vacation pay.

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Travis Carpenter, an Ontario employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, said there are no laws or regulations that account for leap years and extra pay.

“It’s not something that’s been addressed by the politicians or by the courts,” Carpenter said during a radio interview.

While he acknowledged that many people are struggling financially, he said the issue only comes up once every four years and thus isn’t likely to be considered a major issue by legislators.

He also said that there is always going to be some variability in the number of work days from year to year.

“Whether or not you’re going to be paid [for the extra day] is really going to depend on your employment agreement,” he said. “I’ve never seen an employment agreement that accounts for leap days.”

To maintain a proper employer and employee relationship, Carpenter stated that employers must ensure they’re complying with provincial legislation, and should try not to sweep employee concerns under the rug.

“For salaried employees making close to minimum wage, by making them work an extra day their wages could average out to less than minimum wage.”

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