Make Leap Day a Holiday

Today is Friday, February 29th, Leap Day, which only occurs once every 4 years with some exceptions*.   If you work full-time and are like most people, you probably went to work today.  Everybody took it for granted that you should work today because it was not a Saturday, Sunday or official holiday.  But was there really any reason you should have worked today?  Did you actually get paid extra for it?

Most full-time workers get paid twice a month which is 24 paychecks a year.  I’ll argue that these workers don’t get paid extra for working on Leap Day.  There are 365 days in a regular year and 366 days in a leap year.  There are 52 weeks plus one extra day each regular year and 52 weeks plus two extra days in a leap year.  (52*7 = 364.)  This means that there are either 260 or 261 work days in a regular year. (52*5 = 260 in years when the extra day is on a weekend, 52*5 + 1 = 261 in years when the exta day is not on a weekend.)  In a leap year, there are 260, 261 or 262 work days depending on whether or not the extra day and Leap Day are on the weekend or not.

However, most large companies give workers 10 paid holidays a year for national holidays like New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving.  So, the actual number of work days in America is 250 or 251 in a regular year and 250, 251, or 252 in a leap year.  So, there are 251 or 252 actual work days in years when Leap Day is not on a weekend like this year.

The average number of work days in regular years is 250.7 (since 5 of each 7 years have 251 work days).  The average number of work days in leap years is 251.4 (since 25/49 of the years have 252 work days, 20/49 have 251 work days, and 4/49 have 250 work days).  So, on average, people work 0.7 extra days in a leap year.  0.7 is closer to 1 than to 0, so we should either get that extra day or get paid for it.

To give some concrete numbers, I went back and checked the number of work days in the past 4 years and for 2008.

  • 2004 had 252 work days not counting 10 paid holidays.
  • 2005 had 250 work days not counting 10 paid holidays.
  • 2006 had 250 work days not counting 10 paid holidays.
  • 2007 had 251 work days not counting 10 paid holidays.
  • 2008 will have 252 work days not counting 10 paid holidays

The last leap year, 2004, and this one both have 252 work days, but two consecutive leap years only both have 252 work days about 26% of the time.

Some workers do get paid every 2 weeks, receiving 26 paychecks a year.  They’re effectively being paid every 14 days for working 10 days (some of which might be paid holidays).  So, they actually do get paid for the extra work days in leap years.  The problem is for the workers who only get 24 paychecks a year; they’re working an average of 0.7 days extra in leap years and are not getting paid extra for this extra work.

The above analysis suggests that many American workers should either get Leap Day as a holiday or be paid extra for working on it.  Since paying them extra would probably require expensive rewriting of HR and payroll systems like SAP, PeopleSoft, and ADP, it would be easier if Leap Day was just made an official U.S. holiday.  Besides, we all work too many days already.  I see no reason for us to work an extra day every 4 years.

By the way, I didn’t work today because I only work 4 days a week and Friday is my extra day off.  As far as I’m concerned, we should all be working 4 days a week or even less, but that’s a topic for a future post, hopefully before the next Leap Day in 4 years.

*Under the Gregorian Calendar, leap years occur in each year divisible by 4 with the exception of those divisible by 100 with a secondary exception that those divisible by 400 are still leap years.


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2 Responses to “Make Leap Day a Holiday”

  1. Geert Says:

    There is another site starting a campaign to make Leap Day a Holiday, just check it out:

  2. Sam Says:

    The link above to the Leap Day Holiday campaign for the 29th of February 2012 (Galileo Day) doesn’t work anymore. Please use


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