Count the squares on your new 2024 calendar and you’ll get 366 days, instead of the usual 365. Why?

It’s a leap year, a quirk of time and science that occurs roughly every four years to account for the fact that it actually takes 365.25 days for Earth to make a complete orbit around the Sun.

But for the sake of simplicity, the modern world rounds down to 365 days. The leftover is tacked on once it accumulates to a full day about every fourth year.

“Without leap days, the calendar would be off by five hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds more each year,” according to the Farmers’ Almanac.

That said, does the fact that February will have a 29th day shift federal employees’ pay periods? Normally, there are 26 pay periods in a calendar year, though 2023 was unique and had 27.

The first biweekly pay period of 2024 starts Jan. 14. The only effect the leap year has on payroll is it shifts the date on which the first pay period in March, and all subsequent ones, begin.

Other than that, it has no effect, confirmed Reg Jones, Federal Times’ resident retirement expert and a former Office of Personnel Management executive.

Pay periods don’t coincide perfectly with the start and end of a calendar year, so the weekly schedules can shift somewhat over time while still preserving the total number of pay periods.

Federal employees will also see an average 5.2% pay raise this year taking effect next week. Bear in mind that the General Schedule pay limit for 2024 is increasing to $191,900 from $183,500 last year.

For members of the Senior Executive Service with a performance appraisal system, the new cap is $221,900. For those without, it’s $204,000.

The pay freeze on salaries for senior political appointees that initially began in 2014 has also been extended again until Feb. 2, according to OPM.

Congressional action will decide if that freeze continues after that.

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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