Regular Vs. Base Pay Rate

“I’m confused. When talking about an employee’s regular pay, I’m assuming it’s the same as their base pay. However, now I’m hearing something different. Are these the same?”

Your HR Survival Tip

An employee’s base rate may be the same as their regular rate. However, many times, the regular rate is actually higher than the base rate because the regular rate is based on a calculation and includes more things.

The base pay is the hourly rate you pay the employee and it’s no more complicated than that.

The regular rate, as mentioned, is a calculation based on money paid to the employee for more than just hours worked. It includes those hourly earnings, non-exempt salary, commissions, production bonuses, piece-rate earnings, and even the value of meals and lodging. Also included is that stipend you might pay the employee toward a personal insurance policy instead of providing company health insurance.

What does not count toward that regular rate are gifts, holiday pay, vacation pay, sick pay, expense reimbursements, discretionary bonuses, profit-sharing, overtime pay, and ERISA-qualified retirement plan contributions.

Why does this matter? Because when an hourly employee works overtime or uses sick time, you can’t just pay them based on their base pay…it’s paid based on their regular pay. Yes, this means you probably owe the employee a bit more after you do the math.

If the employee only gets an hourly wage and nothing else, then the base and regular rates are the same. But if the employee receives any of those compensable items mentioned above, you need to do the calculation.

A simple version of this calculation is taking all compensation provided to the employee for the time period (your pay period, for example) and dividing that number by the total number of hours worked that same period. The amount you get from that calculation is the basis for any overtime and sick pay. So if the employee’s base rate is $15/hour but the regular rate ends up as $16.59, then you might owe an overtime premium of $8.295 instead of $7.50. The overtime premium is the “half” of time and one half. You would be paying sick time at $16.59, per the city of San Diego’s sick leave law.

The calculation for the regular rate can get more complicated than described here if there are multiple pay rates, prevailing wage, etc. If in doubt, consult us or an employment law attorney to ensure you are paying employees correctly.

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