What Is a Payroll Calendar — And How Do You Make One?

October 28, 2022
What Is a Payroll Calendar — And How Do You Make One?
Payroll calendars are an essential business tool. Your employees expect to be paid for work performed. But do they know:
  • When their timecards are due?
  • Exactly when they are getting paid?
  • What timeframe their paycheck covers?
Payroll calendars can enlighten them on these questions.

What is a payroll calendar?

A payroll calendar is a yearly document outlining important payroll dates. Employers use these calendars to inform employees of their pay schedule and to support timely paycheck processing. Payroll calendars typically reflect:
  • Pay period start and end dates
  • Payment dates
  • Timecard submission dates
  • Payroll processing deadlines
However, if you’re distributing the calendar to your employees, only the first 3 components need to be present. Those 3 data points tell employees when:
  • Their timecards are due
  • When they are getting paid
  • What pay period their paycheck covers
Timecard submission deadlines vary by pay frequency and how much time the payroll department needs to process each payroll.
This type of calendar is separate from what the payroll team uses internally for administration purposes. We will discuss payroll administration calendars later. For now, let’s continue with the employee side of things.

Examples of payroll calendars distributed to employees

The specifics of the payroll calendar you’ll use depends on the pay frequency. Therefore, an employer with multiple pay frequencies would need to create separate calendars for each pay cycle. Example 1 A weekly payroll calendar may show the following for a pay date of October 7, 2022:
  • A pay period start date: September 25, 2022
  • Resulting pay period end date: October 1, 2022
  • Timecard submission deadline: October 3, 2022
  • Pay date: October 7, 2022
Example 2 A biweekly payroll calendar may show the following for a pay date of October 14, 2022:
  • A pay period start date: September 25, 2022
  • Resulting pay period end date: October 8, 2022
  • Timecard submission deadline: October 10, 2022
  • Pay date: October 14, 2022
Note that biweekly paydays happen once every 2 weeks. Example 3 A semi-monthly payroll calendar may show the following for a pay date of October 15, 2022:
  • A pay period start date: September 23, 2022
  • Resulting pay period end date: October 9, 2022
  • Timecard submission deadline: October 11, 2022
  • Pay date: October 15, 2022
Note that semi-monthly paydays happen twice per month.

An illustration of a biweekly payroll calendar for the first 6 pay periods of 2022

Annual pay period # Current pay period start date Pay period end date Timecard submission deadline Pay date Notes
1 12/26/21 01/08/22 01/10/22 01/14/22
2 01/09/22 01/22/22 01/24/22 01/28/22
3 01/23/22 02/05/22 02/07/22 02/11/22
4 02/06/22 02/19/22 02/21/22 02/25/22
5 02/20/22 03/05/22 03/07/22 03/11/22
6 03/06/22 03/19/22 03/21/22 03/25/22
You can include miscellaneous information in the “Notes” section, such as when timecards are required early because of a holiday.  Additional considerations:
  • Timecard submission deadlines vary by pay frequency and how much time the payroll department needs to process each payroll.
  • Most private-sector employees are paid biweekly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Weekly payrolls come in second. It’s not hard to figure out payroll calendar dates for weekly and biweekly payrolls because the timeframes are consistent.
  • It can be difficult and confusing to determine hours worked on a semi-monthly basis, especially when overtime is involved. The same can be said for calculating payroll calendar dates for semi-monthly hourly payrolls. Consequently, semi-monthly payrolls are usually more suitable for employees on a fixed salary than those paid hourly.
  • Exempt-salaried employees do not need to submit timecards because they are not paid according to hours worked. For this reason, payroll calendars are more critical to nonexempt employees than exempt employees. Still, it’s essential for exempt employees to know when they are getting paid and the associated pay periods.

Payroll calendars for payroll departments

The payroll department needs its own annual calendars to ensure timely payroll administration. A word of caution: Do not confuse payroll calendars with payroll checklists. Though they share overlapping features, they are essentially different. A payroll calendar simply highlights important dates relevant to the wage payment process. Conversely, a payroll checklist goes further by listing (albeit concisely) the payroll activities to be completed before processing, during processing, and after processing. The wage payment payroll calendar may include:
  • Pay period start and end dates
  • Pay dates
  • Timecard submission deadlines
  • Payroll processing start and end dates
  • Dates to send direct deposit information to the bank
  • On which dates paycheck accuracy must be verified
  • Dates to distribute paychecks
There are other types of payroll calendars, such as those for payroll tax administration. The payroll tax calendar may show dates for:
  • Remitting employer and employee payroll taxes
  • Reporting payroll taxes
  • Generating Form W-2s
  • Filing and distributing W-2s
  • Reconciling payroll taxes to the general ledger

Tips for developing payroll calendars

Creating a payroll calendar should be developed as part of a collaborative process. To do this, consider:
  • Decide how you will handle “weekend” paydays. When a payday is slated to occur on a Saturday or Sunday, many employers pay employees on the preceding business day. The payroll calendar should show the exact date employees can expect payment. So, if you choose to distribute payroll on the previous business day, the calendar should reflect that. It’s important to note that if your company has the means to be able to pay employees on a weekend payday, companies do not have the latitude to pay employees beyond their communicated pay cycle.
  • Get input on the calendar from the necessary department heads. This is vital to ensuring all grounds are covered and to keeping everyone on the same page. Relevant departments include payroll, human resources, finance, and legal.
 Once initial information has been discussed and agreed upon, the next step is creating the actual payroll calendar.

Getting down to putting the payroll calendar into practical steps

Below are general suggestions for using the information that has been gathered for developing payroll calendars for your employees:
  • Check state law for any minimum payday requirements. These laws determine how frequently an employer can pay their employees. You can pay more often, but not less. The pay dates on your payroll calendar must comply with these laws if they apply.
  • Create payroll calendars based on your pay frequency. Remember, you must also consider how much time you need to process payroll after receiving timecards. Most employers use payroll software, which significantly cuts down on processing times.
  • Keep close tabs on holidays, which can impact pay dates. For example, you may need to collect timecards early to ensure timely payroll processing during Christmas and New Year. You can also pay your employees early if the pay date falls on a holiday.
  • Make sure all dates are accurate before you distribute the payroll calendar. Mistakes on the calendar might not go over well with your employees. They may, for example, wonder if you will also mess up their paychecks. What’s more, errors on the calendar may cause delays in payroll processing (such as late timecard submissions).
Payroll software is the simplest, most accurate way to administer payroll; the technology can remind you of important upcoming dates, such as federal and banking holidays.

Distribute the completed product

Once you've put all the work into developing your company's payroll calendar, make sure that it's effectively communicated.
  • Give employees the calendar by the start of the year. This way, they know what to expect throughout the year.
An easy way to distribute the calendar is to include it in your new hire packets. Some employers post payroll calendars on their company websites. But if you have privacy concerns, you can make the calendar available in your self-service portal or have your managers distribute it to their employees. Also, do not solely rely on the calendar to remember key payroll dates. Establish additional reminders/alerts on your mobile phone or via payroll software.

Payroll software options

Payroll software is the simplest, most accurate way to administer payroll. Moreover, the technology can remind you of important upcoming dates, such as federal and banking holidays. Whether you can create payroll calendars for your employees through the software varies by each technology vendor. If your payroll software does not come with this feature, you can create the calendars on your computer and finalize them as PDF documents. You might even be able to find payroll calendar templates online. Payroll calendars are not “nice to haves.” They are “must-have” resources for informing employees about their pay schedules and maintaining order in the payroll department. If necessary, speak with your payroll technology vendor to learn what options they offer for payroll calendars.
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