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Finding out that a payroll cycle is changing can be frustrating, especially if there is very little or no notice given that it is happening. Each state sets its own laws with regard to payroll frequency and what is required before changes can be made. However, in most cases, employers give employees sufficient notice before making such changes. The legality of changes without notice typically depends on the state in which the work is performed.
Employees in Massachusetts, for example, are protected from having payroll cycles changed from weekly to biweekly without notice. State law requires employers to provide written notice to empoyees who will have their weekly pay become biweekly pay. The notice must be provided at least 90 days before the first biweekly check is issued. All states are not bound by the 90-day law, however.
Limits on Frequency
Tennessee companies employing more than five workers are restricted in how infrequently they can pay their people. State law prohibits payment less often than twice per month, with rare exceptions including state-paid workers, such as teachers, who are paid on a monthly basis. In all other cases, no notice is required to change payroll frequency as long as pay is dispersed at least twice per month.
Some states set vague guidelines with regard to changing payroll cycles. California employers, for example, are allowed to change their payroll cycles as long as they give prior notice to their workers that the change is planned. The law doesn't state exactly how much notice is prior notice. As long as notice is given -- this could be done the day before anticipated paychecks would be handed out -- and the employees are paid within the state frequency laws, the company is in compliance.
Though your state may not have laws mandating written notice for pay period changes, there may be employer/employee contracts or union contracts that do require such notice. For example, employees of the state of Nebraska were covered under the NAPE/AFSCME Labor Contract in 2007 when their payroll cycle was changed from weekly to biweekly. In that case, a 90-day notice was required unless the department filed for a waiver. In addition, the conversion was not allowed to take place between October and December so as not to interfere with open enrollment periods for health and other insurance needs.
Your State's Law
The laws regarding payroll cycle changes vary widely from state to state. The state labor commissioner's office or department of labor and wages can provide state-specific laws regarding changing payroll cycles and whether notice is required.
- Tennessee Department of Labor: Frequently Asked Questions - Tennessee Labor Laws
- American Payroll Association; How to Switch Pay Frequencies; Brent Gow, CPP; January/February 1999
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts: General Laws
- Nebraska Administrative Services; HR Pay Period Conversion; October 2007
- California Department of Industrial Relations; Department of Industrial Relations; Paydays, Pay Periods, and the Final Wages
Candace Webb has been writing professionally since 1989. She has worked as a full-time journalist as well as contributed to metropolitan newspapers including the "Tennessean." She has also worked on staff as an associate editor at the "Nashville Parent" magazine. Webb holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a minor in business from San Jose State University.