There are several standard payroll frequencies or periods: weekly, biweekly, semi-monthly and monthly. Let’s look at a sample semi-monthly payroll, where an employee is paid 24 times a year. The T4 generated at the end of the year should include 24 pay cheques (if the employee was employed throughout).
- In pay period 1, semi-monthly hours are typically recorded from Jan 1 to Jan 15;
- In pay period 2, semi-monthly hours are typically recorded from Jan 16 to Jan 31;
- In pay period 3, semi-monthly hours are typically recorded from Feb 1 to Feb 14;
- In pay period 4, semi-monthly hours are typically recorded from Feb 15 to Feb 28; etc.
The cheques for pay period 1 are often prepared during the 3rd week in January – just after the end of the period on Jan 15 – as some time is required to gather the hours for each employee and process the payroll. The date of the cheque for pay period 1 can vary, but we strongly recommend dating the pay cheque Jan 15.
The pay day and the date on the pay cheque do not need to coincide. The pay day is typically the same day for weekly or biweekly payrolls (e.g. always on a Thursday unless that Thursday is a holiday). For semi-monthly payrolls, the pay day may be 5 or 7 days after the end of the pay period. However, the date on the pay cheque should be the last day of the pay period, i.e. the last day for which the employee is being paid.
Many companies think that the day you hand the pay cheque to an employee must be the date on the pay cheque, but this is not necessary and can have undesirable consequences. Think of your accounts payable cheques to vendors – it is unlikely they are dated the day the vendor receives them.
Pay Cheque Dates and Issues with ROEs, T4s, T4As, etc.
When you print pay cheques dated the last day of the pay period, all government forms and reports will be correct. If the pay cheques are dated several days after the last day of the pay period, the pay cheque for period 24 (using the example of semi-monthly payroll) will be dated in the following year. This creates T4 slips for the year that are incorrect, as well as causing problems with ROEs and other reports.
Employer expenses are calculated based on employees’ pay cheques. When you date pay cheques after the pay period, employer expenses will be recorded in the wrong month for all even numbered semi-monthly pay periods (semi-monthly payroll). Furthermore, company expenses for period 24 will be dated in the following year.
The above applies to all pay periods, including weekly, biweekly, and monthly. Many of our users make a special case of the last pay cheque of the year and adjust the date to December 31 to keep things “correct”. This same logic should be applied throughout the year, not only for the last pay cheque, and all dates should be consistent. So please date your pay cheques using the last day of the pay period, and not the pay day several days later when you are actually printing the cheques.