Typical payroll practices
August 18, 2016 6:20 AM   Subscribe

What is the typical gap between when a pay period ends and the checks/deposits are sent? I think it has been 3-4 day in most of my jobs. Is that about right? Are there any notable exceptions? Also, why is there often a delay in getting your first paycheck at a new job? Is that because it is hard to add someone in the middle of a pay period, or is it withheld for other reasons?
posted by molla to Work & Money (18 answers total)
Our pay period ends every other Monday, and our pay is deposited into our accounts the following Tuesday or Wednesday, so six to seven business days (eight to ten days total) for us.
posted by lazuli at 6:29 AM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

A delay period based on the frequency of paydays isn't unusual (paid every two weeks, maybe a two week delay from the end of the pay period). This is going to vary over a wide spectrum. I've worked places where pay was once a month with a two week delay. Other possible variables: commissions to be factored in, advanced draws, tips, salary vs. hourly. Processing takes time... I've worked places where the pay-period ended on Friday and checks were available on saturday. I think that the benchmark you should be looking for is consistent, reliable paychecks based on whatever system/timeline is announced by the employer...

You might want to ask this question of whomever does the payroll where you work, they will be able to better explain it.
posted by HuronBob at 6:31 AM on August 18, 2016

Almost every job I've ever had had a two-week pay period, so every paycheck would be for two weeks' work.

But every payday would be the alternate week: if the pay period ended on a Friday, then the paychecks were sent the following Friday --- alternating Fridays (or whatever) would be either the end of the two-week pay period or when the sent out two weeks' pay. I've never seen just 3-4 days, its always been a full week.

And if you started work in the middle of a pay period, depending on the company you'd either receive a paycheck for the abreviated amount or it would be added to the following check.
posted by easily confused at 6:35 AM on August 18, 2016

Most of my jobs have paid ~2 weeks after the pay period ended, so that's what I think of as normal. My current one pays the last business day of the pay period, which I think is fairly unusual.

why is there often a delay in getting your first paycheck at a new job?

Many small companies outsource their payroll, so there may be delays or processing time required by their vendor. Others may do it in-house but want to add enough padding that in case something goes wrong with setting up the payment that they've not created the expectation that there will be a paycheck available immediately.
posted by Candleman at 6:37 AM on August 18, 2016

At my previous employer, the University of Washington, the Payroll Cutoff Calendar specifies that pay can be as late as 10 days after the pay period ends. And yes, in my experience, it can sometimes me difficult for people to get their act together and get all the necessary approvals by deadlines to add new personnel which are often in the middle of the pay period. Especially if the start date is in the middle of the pay period itself.
posted by grouse at 6:59 AM on August 18, 2016

I never paid much attention to this until my current job, where I have the idiosyncratic paydays of the 7th and the 22nd, which are for pay periods ending at month end and the 15th.

It's a small company, and the owner does everything, so I never questioned the delay.
posted by uberchet at 7:24 AM on August 18, 2016

At my current job, I get paid bi-weekly, with a two week "lag." For example, next Wednesday, 8/24, I will get a paycheck covering the pay period from 7/28-8/10. If a new employee had started on 8/11, they wouldn't get their first paycheck until 9/7.

It was a bit of a hardship the first month that I started. I was lucky that I'd received the payout for my unused vacation from my previous job to tide me over.
posted by Kriesa at 7:28 AM on August 18, 2016

Laws vary by state as well. The practices described by grouse or Kreisa would be illegal in Massachusetts, where wages must generally be paid within six days of the end of the pay period.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:31 AM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

My current one pays the last business day of the pay period

This is my employer's practice as well. I work for a Fortune 500 corporation, FWIW.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:59 AM on August 18, 2016

I once had a job for the State of CA, which paid once a month on the last day of the month, with a one month lag. My understanding from friends in other agencies is that this is typical for the State.

In my case, I started work the last week of September, so for the September pay period I had earned one week's worth of pay. We got paid for September on October 31st.

So, for two months (until we were paid on November 30th) in practical terms I had no income.
Mentally I just couldn't sort my life around getting paid once a month. I think I quit the first week of December.

At my current job (local government) we get paid on the 15th and 30th, with a two week lag as mentioned above.
posted by vignettist at 8:00 AM on August 18, 2016

What is the typical gap between when a pay period ends and the checks/deposits are sent?
1-2 weeks is fairly normal and fairly standard. So lets say you get paid every two weeks and you are getting paid on 8/26. The pay period might have ended on 8/19 or on 8/12. Both of those set-ups are totally normal.

Some companies pay your expected pay on the last day of the pay period and then catch up any PTO or OT on the next paycheck.

Usually payroll has to be completed and entered 3-4 days prior to the actual payday in order for everything to be processed/filed and checks (yes some people still get real checks) to be cut and direct deposits to be ready for the banks so they will deposit on the correct day.

why is there often a delay in getting your first paycheck at a new job?

This is usually because of pay periods not lining up with pay days or because of the fact that payroll has to be complete 3-4 days prior to pay day.

Hire Date: 8/15
Pay Period: 7/30-8/12
Payroll Completed: 8/22
Pay Day: 8/26

That means that the person didn't actually even work during the pay period. So they literally have no earnings to pay on that 8/26 paycheck.

Hire Date 8/15
Pay Period: 8/6-8/19
Payroll Completed: 8/22
Pay Day: 8/26

Depending on company's processes, person has a good chance of being paid. But they will get about half a normal paycheck because they only worked half the pay period.

Hire Date 8/22
Pay Period: 8/6-8/19
Payroll Completed: 8/22
Pay Day: 8/26

Could the person get paid? HIGHLY DOUBTFUL. Why? (1) Is all your paperwork complete on your first day? (2) Does payroll have time to get all your info into their system before running payroll?

The answer to both of those is likely no. Try talking to a payroll person on that Monday, they are BUSY, processing payroll is still pretty labor intensive even when it is as automated as it can be, especially at larger companies because there are lots of one-offs that need to be looked at, lots of different files to load that affect payroll (Benefits deductions file, 401(k) deductions file, employee demographic changes file, PTO system file, Time Card system file, reimbursements file) and every one of them has error reports that need to be checked, then they also need to process funding files back (401(k) funding file, FSA funding file).

Basically the answer is that running payroll is harder than most people think it is :)
posted by magnetsphere at 8:27 AM on August 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have run payroll for a couple companies. Magnetsphere is right there with what goes on behind the scenes to get you paid. Add to that the fact that sometimes companies need to scrape together the cash to fund the payroll, and it is a busy week with lots of opportunities to get it wrong.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 9:19 AM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Huh. Our delay is zero days, and checks are direct-deposit only. Pay period is monthly, and if you start mid-month you get pro rata.

I thought this was normal, guess we are an outlier. Moral of the story is that it is highly dependent on company and geography, I guess.
posted by ohio at 9:53 AM on August 18, 2016

My experience is the roughly same as ohio's. No delay from the end of the pay-period to when the direct deposit happens, and I'm paid bi-monthly via direct deposit. Occasionally I'll even be paid "early" if the normal pay period end date falls on a weekend or holiday. I'm salaried, if that makes a difference.
posted by Aleyn at 11:42 AM on August 18, 2016

@Ohio & Aleyn - Your companies are likely paying you an "expected" amount (as in how much you would be paid if you worked the normal amount of hours) for that pay period. Your PTO count is likely updated on the next paycheck and if you were to work over or under time (and you are paid hourly) then that would also be accounted for on the next paycheck.

This set-up is also not unusual but is far more likely if the majority of the company is Non-Exempt (as in paid a set salary every pay day regardless of hours worked vs. paid an hourly rate only for hours worked).
posted by magnetsphere at 11:51 AM on August 18, 2016

The Department of Defense's Financial Management Regulation makes for light reading. Volume 8 contains the following:

The payday lag between the close of the pay period and payday must not exceed 12 calendar days. When a payday falls on a holiday or an "in lieu of" holiday, the payday will be on the first preceding business day.

posted by llin at 1:43 PM on August 18, 2016

Magnetosphere has it right. I ran payroll for 90 hourly employees for years. The biggest delay in a first paycheck is getting *all* of the new employee paperwork back in time for the payroll cut off. Add to it that our end of pay period to check dispersal delay was 8 days. It wasn't unusual for first checks to come 3-4 weeks after the first day of work.

It wasn't first lack of trying though - I hunted down, emailed, constantly reminded, and generally hounded them to get me their paperwork & ID. Most of our employees were young though and they didn't care until suddenly they couldn't make rent. Kids these days *shakes fist at the sky*
posted by jenmakes at 6:03 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was going to come here and say, what the heck, there's a delay?! I guess that's my privilege showing...

I've always been paid at the end of the pay period. In fact, the portion of my direct deposit that goes to my credit union usually hits a day early...

I've only worked in Texas and for tech companies, so *shrug*
posted by theRussian at 9:37 PM on August 19, 2016

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