Updated May 29, 2024

Semi-Monthly vs Bi-Weekly: Understanding the Differences Between the Two Pay Schedules

Semi-monthly and bi-weekly are two of the four popular types of pay schedules, generally opted by companies for frequent payments to employees. Companies choose these pay schedules to positively impact the employees’ morale and help them manage their expenses on time. But due to the difference in period, each of these pay schedules has its own advantages and disadvantages. 

Therefore, companies must ensure all aspects of these before being certain about any pay schedule.

In today’s article, we will talk about semi-monthly vs bi-weekly pay schedules, their pros and cons, and important factors for choosing between them.

What Do Semi-Monthly And Bi-Weekly Pay Mean?

Although the semi-weekly and bi-weekly payments sound very similar, they are different. Under the semi-monthly pay schedule, employees receive two paychecks each month and get paid twice a month, on the 15th and the last day of the month. On the other hand, bi-weekly pay refers to a schedule where employees get paid every two weeks, on a specific day of the week.

Both of these pay schedules help employees effectively budget their rent or mortgage payments. However, it requires careful financial planning to manage expenses between paychecks effectively.

Semi-Monthly vs Bi-Weekly: Key Differences

Considering the nature and structure of both pay schedules, the following are the differences between semi-weekly and bi-weekly.


  • Frequency of Pay: Employees are paid twice a month, usually on specific dates, such as the 15th and the last day of the month.
  • Overtime Calculation: These may be simpler because pay periods are fixed each month.
  • Cash Flow Management: Employees budget more carefully to cover expenses during longer intervals between paychecks.
  • Consistency of Pay Dates: These are fixed, making it easier for employees to budget and plan expenses.
  • Processing: Due to the fixed dates of payment, the semi-monthly payrolls are easy to process and evaluate.
  • Number of Paychecks Per Year: Employees receive 24 paychecks per year (12 months x 2 pay periods per month).
  • Impact on Loan Repayments and Expenses: Due to the fixed pay dates, some loan repayments and expenses like rent and loan adjust better with semi-monthly pay schedules. 
  • Paycheck Amount: The semi-monthly paychecks will contain a greater amount as you are less frequently paying your employees.


  •  Frequency of Pay: Employees are paid every two weeks, usually on the same day of the week, such as every other Friday.
  • Overtime Calculation: These may vary slightly due to the varying number of days in each pay period, especially if a pay period is between two different months.
  • Cash Flow Management: Frequently received paychecks help employees manage their cash flow and cover expenses more evenly throughout the month.
  • Consistency of Pay Dates: These may vary slightly depending on the day of the week, which makes budgeting more challenging for some employees.
  • Processing: Preparing biweekly payrolls is generally easier than semimonthly pay, as the workdays are less. But at the same time, it can be stressful if there are holidays between working days.
  • Number of Paychecks Per Year: Employees receive 26 paychecks per year (52 weeks ÷ 2).
  • Impact on Loan Repayments and Expenses:  Some employees may prefer bi-weekly pay schedules, as they adjust better to weekly bills like groceries and public transportation costs.
  • Paycheck Amount: The bi-weekly paychecks will contain a smaller amount as you are more frequently paying your employees.

Understanding your personal needs and requirements, take the above mentioned points into account while choosing a suitable pay schedule for your company.

Pros and Cons of Semi-Monthly Pay Schedule

The following are the pros and cons of the semi-monthly pay schedules.

  • Payment dates are fixed, so you don’t have to worry about budgets and financial plans.
  • Expense management becomes easy for companies that opt for fixed-date pay schedules.
  • Provide better expense planning and management opportunities for employees.
  • The scheduled pay date can also land on a weekend. So, the payroll team has to keep track of that in advance.
  • The last dates of the month keep changing, making the payroll process complex.

Pros and Cons of Bi-Weekly Pay Schedule 

The following are the pros and cons of the bi-weekly pay schedules.

  • Employees are paid more often, resulting in more motivation while working.
  • You pay your employees a small amount as compared to other pay schedules.
  • The payroll team can accurately track and process the payroll on bi-weekly pay schedules.
  • Under Bi-weekly pay schedules, payroll is processed more frequently, which can result in a heavier workload for the payroll department.
  • The payroll processing cost of the bi-weekly pay schedules is expensive, as you have to use your resources multiple times for payroll calculation.

What to Consider While Choosing Between Semi-Monthly And Bi-Weekly Payment Schedules?

Picking between semi-monthly and bi-weekly pay can be quite confusing for companies interested in these schedules. Once a company opts for a pay schedule, it must follow the same frequency throughout the year.

Taking this into account, the following are the deciding factors for choosing between semi-monthly and bi-weekly pay schedules.

  • State-based laws: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, not all states are compliant with different pay schedules. Thus, check whether your state is allowed to choose the semi-monthly pay schedule or the bi-weekly pay schedule.
  • Payroll software: Ensure that your payroll software is effective in understanding the complexities of your chosen pay schedule. If it’s not, it can cause several issues in payroll processing.
  • Impact on employees’ motivation: More frequent pay schedules help employees stay motivated and confident in the workplace, significantly improving their efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Workload: Bi-weekly pay is more accurate in calculating the employees’ pay, but can result in a heavier workload for the HR and payroll teams.

Wrapping Up

Choosing between semi-monthly and bi-weekly pay schedules requires careful consideration of various factors. While semi-monthly pay offers fixed payment dates and longer intervals between paychecks, bi-weekly pay provides more frequent payments for better cash flow management. 

Before opting for any one of these pay schedules, an employer must ensure that the chosen schedule complies with state laws, adheres to payroll software, and motivates the employees.

Frequently Asked Questions
What are the types of pay schedules?

The following are the four common types of pay schedules.

  • Weekly: Employees are paid once a week, usually on Fridays.
  • Bi-weekly: Employees are paid once every two weeks.
  • Semi-monthly: Employees are paid twice a month, usually on the 15th and the last day of the month.
  • Monthly: Employees are paid once a month.
Why is a payment schedule important?

Payment schedules are important for companies to manage structured monetary exchanges and the timely payment of business transactions.

Can an employer change the payment schedule?

Employers can change the payment schedule, but they must ensure that the changes comply with applicable labor laws and provide employees with advance notice of any changes. Employees should be informed of the new schedule and how it may affect their pay.

What happens if the payday falls on a holiday or weekend?

Suppose payday falls on a holiday or weekend. In that case, employers pay employees on the last business day before the holiday or weekend or on the next business day following the holiday or weekend.

Can employees request changes to the payment schedule?

Employees can discuss the potential changes to the payment schedule with their employer, but any changes would be agreed upon by both parties and comply with legal requirements. Employers may consider requests for changes based on business needs and feasibility.

Author - Dushyant K
Dushyant K

Finance Writer

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