Semimonthly and Biweekly Pay Periods Explained

Semi-Monthly Pay Explained

If you’re paid semi-monthly you receive a paycheque twice a month.

Most companies choose to issue their payroll on the 15th and the last business day of the month.

If one of your paydays falls on the weekend, you’re normally paid the previous Friday.

This method of payment is most common for salaried employees.

The advantages of semi-monthly pay include:

  • Consistent pay days – unlike salaried employees paid every two weeks, your paydays are always on or near the same dates every month
  • Consistent deductions –deductions for E.I., taxes, and other benefits for salaried employees are usually the same amount for each pay cheque
  • Consistent paycheque amount – if you are a salaried employee your paycheque amount will be roughly the same each payday.
  • Larger paycheques – even though salaried workers receive the same amount per year as someone paid every two weeks, paycheques are issued less often. Consequently, each cheque is larger.

The disadvantages of semi-monthly pay include:

  • You may need to wait longer for a paycheque if you’re new to the company – It can take between 4 and 6 weeks to receive your first pay cheque, because employers usually pay for the hours worked in the previous pay period, not the current one.
     
  • More complicated for hourly work – salaried employees often do not qualify for overtime. If you do, the payroll department sets cut off dates to input the hours you’ve worked. If you work after the cut-off date, your employer will not pay you for these hours until the next paycheque.
  • Paydays land on different days of the week – you may get your paycheque on any day of the work week, depending on where it falls on the calendar.
  • Longer time between paydays – you could potentially run out of cash before you’re paid again.
Picture of a calendar

Biweekly Pay Explained

Employers issue a biweekly paycheque on the same day of the week, every other week.

For instance, your payday might be every second Wednesday.

However, this results in 26 pay periods which doesn’t divide evenly into 12 months.

Consequently, in two months of the year, you receive three paycheques, instead of two.

However, your overall annual pay isn’t any more than if your employer paid you twice a month.

It is only the way they distribute your money that differs.

This payment method is most common for hourly employees, but some employers divide a salaried employee’s compensation equally over 26 pay periods.

The advantages of biweekly pay include:

  • Easier to manage cash flow – you’re paid on the same day, every other week. This consistency can make it easier to manage your finances.
  • More paycheques – two months of the year you will receive three paycheques, instead of two. 
  • Easier to track overtime – cut off dates are shorter making it more likely your employer pays all hours worked on each paycheque.
  • Less time for new employee cheque – you’ll wait less time than a semi-monthly employee, as each pay period is only two weeks long.

The disadvantages of bi-weekly pay include:

  • Smaller pay cheques – you’re paid more often so your cheques are smaller. 
  • Deductions may vary – taxes and benefits are often calculated on a monthly basis which can lead to different deductions on pay cheques
  • Inconsistent pay cheques – pay cheque amounts depend on your deductions.

Semi-Monthly vs Biweekly Pay

As mentioned, semi-monthly pay offers larger cheques, the same amount each payday, and the same pay dates each month.

Bi-weekly pay offers smaller cheques, varying payment amounts, and pay dates that consistently cycle through two-week periods. 

The following chart demonstrates the differences between the two methods for a person with an annual salary of $50,000.

Remember, it is only the way your employer distributes your salary that differs.

It does not alter your annual salary.

Semi-Monthly Bi-Weekly
Yearly Salary $50,000.00 $50,000.00
Employer Pay Dates Mid & End of Month Every Two Weeks
Deductions Consistent Inconsistent
Pay Cheques/Year 24 26
Approx. Pay Amount $2,083.33
($50,000/24)
$1923.08
($50,000/26)
Salaried Employees Most Common Less Common
Hourly Employees Less Common Most Common

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is semi-monthly paid?
  • How many times a month is semi-monthly?
  • Semi-monthly is twice a month. Employers pay on a regular schedule, usually the 15th and the last day of the month. However, your employer may choose other dates instead.


Charlene Royston has written extensively for the private, public, and non-profit sectors for over ten years. Her experience working with a trust company led to a special interest in personal finance, including mortgages, investments, and retirement options. By simplifying the complex, she hopes to empower others to make more informed decisions.