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Semi Monthly Pay

>> HR Glossary/  Compensation & Benefits / Semi Monthly Pay

What is semi-monthly pay? 

Semi-monthly pay is a payment schedule where employees receive their salary or wages twice a month, typically resulting in 24 pay periods per year. 

Under this system, payments are usually made on specific days of the month, typically either on the first and the fifteenth of the month or on the fifteenth and the last day of the month. This can vary slightly depending on weekends and holidays, but generally, the structure remains consistent throughout the year.

Employers often use semi-monthly pay to streamline payroll processing and provide employees with a regular and predictable payment schedule, which can help in budgeting and financial planning.

How does semi-monthly pay work?

Here is an overview of how this payment schedule works:

  • Pay periods: Every month is divided into two pay periods (e.g., fixed dates like the 1st and 15th of the month).
  • Monthly pay: An employee’s monthly salary is split into two paychecks. For example, with a monthly salary of $4,000, the semi-monthly pay would be $2,000 for each payday.
  • Yearly paychecks: In a year, employees will receive 24 paychecks.
Calendar showing how semi-monthly pay on Thursdays, 1st and 15th of the month.

Biweekly versus semi-monthly pay

Although both of these payment schedules occur twice a month, there are some important distinctions to consider.

For semi-monthly pay, employees receive their salaries in two equal installments a month. The dates are typically on the 1st and the 15th or the 15th and the last of the month. The specific days for payment may vary.

For biweekly pay, employee receive their salary every two weeks, which results in 26 paychecks per year. Typically, a biweekly payroll occurs on a specific day (e.g., every other Friday).

Biweekly pay
Semi-monthly pay


Every two weeks (26 times a year)

Twice a month (24 times per year)

Common paydays

On a specific day of the week (e.g., Fridays)

Often on the 1st and the 15th or the 15th and the last of the month

Month-to-month consistency

Paydays vary each month, not always the same

Consistent dates each month, easier for budgeting

Extra paychecks

Two months will have three paychecks, which can aid in budgeting

No extra paychecks; consistent throughout the year

Paycheck size

Generally smaller since payments are spread over more paychecks

Usually larger because there are fewer pay periods

The two main differences between biweekly pay and semi-monthy pay are paychecks per year and frequency of payment.

How to calculate semi-monthly pay

Calculating semi-monthly pay involves converting an annual salary into the amount paid per each of the two monthly pay periods. Here’s how to do it:

Semi-monthly pay = Gross annual salary / 24

Gross annual salary: This is your total gross salary over a year.

24: Represents the total number of pay periods in a year when you are paid twice a month. Since each month has two pay periods and there are 12 months in a year, you multiply 12 by 2 to get 24.

Calculation example:

$60,000 gross annual salary  / 24 = $2,500

In this example, $2,500 would be the semi-monthly pay before taxes and any other deductions.

What HR should know about semi-monthly pay

Before implementing this payment schedule, HR professionals should carefully consider the pros and cons. Here are a few:

For the organization


  • Simplified payroll process: Semi-monthly pay periods offer a relatively straightforward payroll schedule, with a standard 24 paychecks in a year.
  • Specific payroll dates: The schedule is consistent, occurring on the 1st and 15th or the 15th and last day of the month.
  • Easier monthly budgeting: Semi-monthly pay periods are often simpler than biweekly pay, as it is easier to predict the total payroll costs per month (only twice a month versus 2-3 with biweekly pay).


  • Complexity for hourly employees: For organizations with hourly workers, semi-monthly pay periods can complicate the calculation of hours worked, especially if the pay period spans parts of two different work weeks.
  • Inconsistent pay dates: If the set payday falls on a weekend or holiday, the actual payday needs to be adjusted, which can sometimes lead to confusion or dissatisfaction among employees.
  • Reduced cash flow: Since the semi-monthly pay periods are not aligned with weeks but rather with specific dates, there might be higher payroll amounts due at certain times of the month, impacting cash flow management.

For employees


  • Improved financial stability: When employees receive their salaries more frequently (rather than once a month), it may help avoid financial strain between paychecks.
  • Better alignment with monthly bills: Some bills fall on different days of the month. Being paid twice a month can help secure funds to meet these payments on time.
  • Less reliance on credit: With more frequent paychecks, employees may be less likely to use credit cards or short-term loans to cover monthly expenses.


  • Longer wait times: Employees accustomed to weekly or biweekly pay may find the longer interval between paychecks in a semi-monthly schedule challenging, especially if they live paycheck to paycheck. 
  • No ‘extra’ paychecks: Unlike biweekly pay periods, where employees may receive three paychecks monthly, semi-monthly pay only offers two paychecks a month.
  • Difficulty with budgeting: Monthly financial planning can be more challenging, especially for those used to a weekly or biweekly schedule.

Semi-monthly pay best practices

Here are some best practices for HR professionals considering or managing semi-monthly payroll:

  1. Keep pay dates consistent: Maintain fixed dates for the paychecks, such as the 15th and the last day of the month. This kind of predictability helps HR and employees manage budgets effectively.
  2. Know the state labor laws: Before implementing semi-monthly pay, research your state’s laws around pay periods. For instance, some states in the U.S. specify that hourly employees must be paid weekly or biweekly rather than semi-monthly.
  3. Communicate changes in advance: When regular pay dates fall on weekends or public holidays, notify employees in advance of the adjusted pay dates. This communication helps prevent any misunderstanding or financial inconvenience for employees.
  4. Flexibility: Consider establishing alternative pay options for employee emergencies or unplanned circumstances outside of the semi-monthly pay schedules.


How many semi-monthly pay periods are there in a year?

Semi-monthly pay consists of 24 pay periods in a year. Since there are two pay periods every month (e.g., 1st and 15th), employees receive two paychecks a month, which adds up to 24 pay periods.

What is a semi-monthly pay schedule example?

A semi-monthly pay schedule usually occurs on specific month dates, like the 1st and 15th or the 15th and the last day of the month.
However, if these dates fall on a weekend or holiday, HR will typically process paychecks on the preceding or next business day (e.g., if the 15th falls on a Saturday, employees will receive their pay on the 14th).

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