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In case you didn’t know, 2020 is a leap year and that means there are 29 days in February instead of the usual 28. The bonus 24 hours we gain this month have sparked a debate about what people should do with the extra time and whether they should get paid if they’re at work.

So where do staff stand on the financial front? Employees receiving an annual salary are not entitled to an extra day’s pay in 2020, even if they are working on Saturday 29th February. The only time they will be paid extra is if there is something specifically written into their work contract outlining that the employer will pay for bonus hours completed on 29th February.

Those who are required to work on Saturday 29th February and who also bill by the hour or day should be paid under the terms of their employment or contract. It’s an expense employers should bear in mind when it comes to budgeting, especially when you consider, for example, that the current median contractor rate for an IT Consultant is £500 per day.

With more people contracting or working in a freelance capacity, February 29th has the potential to cause re-occurring financial upset for employers. The impact this year won’t be so significant, as the added day falls on a Saturday, but it falls on a Thursday in 2024 and a Tuesday in 2028.

What can employers do to lessen the impact?

There is already a school of thought that says every 29th of February should be a national Bank Holiday. While not likely to be adopted by the Government any time soon, businesses could give the entire workforce one day of unpaid leave every four years – appeasing those who don’t want to give their employer an extra day of work for free and negating the need to pay contractors.

So what could you do if February 29th was a holiday every occurrence? Here are some suggestions:

  • Take a digital detox – Participants in a 2016 survey presented to the Academy of Management said that monitoring and responding to emails during non-working hours led to chronic stress and emotional exhaustion. So step away from the screen, even if it’s just for a few hours.
  • Improve your recruitment prospects – If you can’t stay away from devices, use your online time to do something positive. Why not update your CV and LinkedIn profile, especially if you’re thinking of changing jobs, or look into courses and qualifications.
  • Try something new – Take a guitar lesson, cook a new recipe or join an exercise class you’ve always wanted to try. There’s nothing to lose as it’s a day you don’t normally get.
  • Resist working – The TUC claim more than 5 million UK workers put in a total of 2 billion unpaid hours in 2018. Remember that you may not be paid for February 29th so don’t put in any hours if you don’t have to.
  • Try not to waste the day – Tempting as it may be to lie in bed until lunch or binge on box sets, February is a really short month even with the bonus day. Make a plan to get up and out, and stick to it!
  • Propose – According to tradition, a lady is allowed to propose to their suitor on this day. If you’re tired of waiting, why not take charge and the chance to pop the question?
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