Leap year 2024: Day of year most Australians will work for free

There’s one day of this year where it appears most Aussies will work for free – but don’t blame your boss, blame the scientists who created the modern day calendar nearly 500 years ago.

Every fourth year they inserted February 29 into the year to synchronize the calendar year with the solar year, or the length of time it takes to complete the Earth’s orbit around the sun.

But in doing so anyone on a fixed annual wage in 2024 will work an extra day of the year for no extra pay, or will they?

For the average Aussie worker losing a day’s wage would mean the loss of earnings the value of $296.50.

Not a small amount considering we are in a cost of living crisis.

According to Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research deputy director Roger Wilkins, it’s not exactly that simple, because every year, leap year or not, is different.

“First, it is a leap year, so, that means there is an extra day,” he said.

“But also the number of weekend days varies from year to year. It’s usually 104, sometimes it’s 105 and sometimes it’s even 106, it just depends on what day the year starts.

“Then the other thing we have is that if one of our public holidays falls on a weekend, you don’t get a public holiday for it.”

Mr Wilkins used Anzac Day as an example. “If it falls on a Wednesday, you get a public holiday, if it falls on a Saturday, you don’t, so it’s an extra day of work that year, for no extra pay,” he said.

But, with the extra day in a leap year, are those on a salary technically working a day for free?

“Yeah, it is absolutely the case,” Mr Wilkins said.

“But, when you get a salary, the idea is you’re not really getting paid per hour, you are sort of getting paid for a job.

“But yeah, it costs more to eat in a leap year (due to the extra day) so it’s pretty clear that your expenses will go up and your income won’t. I think that’s a fair comment.”


So, we can see that leap years are a bit of a pain when it comes to salaries, but what’s the reason behind having them?

If we didn’t insert the extra in the calendar every four years, we’d be seeing things like a white Christmas in alpine Australia or maybe a 40℃ day the middle of July.

The “seasonal drift” would case havoc on multiple fronts, everything from farming, to sports, that rely on certain weather conditions at certain times of the year would be thrown into disarray.

A calendar year is typically 365 days long when in actuality it takes 365.242190 days for Earth to orbit the sun or, 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 56 seconds.

So, to make up for that lost time, we get treated with a 29th of February every four years.

If you do the maths though you will see that it still doesn’t quite add up, so every year that is divisible by 100, that is not also divisible by 400, the leap year is skipped.

The United States Naval Observatory explain it best.

“Every year that is exactly divisible by four is a leap year, except for years that are exactly divisible by 100, but these centurial years are leap years if they are exactly divisible by 400. For example, the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 are not leap years, but the year 2000 is.”

Technical stuff, so who was the first to notice that the seasons were drifting and that something needed to be done?

None other than Julius Caesar, who in 45BC announced that there would be an extra day every four years.

It then took to 1582 for someone to notice things were still a bit off, and they let Pope Gregory XII know, so he put his astronomers to work, who then realised that every hundredth year not divisible by 400 needed to go, just to even everything out.

The problem now was, the calendar was roughly 10 days out of whack, so to compensate October 5 to October 14 in 1582 were just… dropped.

Those ten days officially don’t exist, pretty rough if it was your birthday.

It also took a minute for the rest of the world to catch up, not everyone was exactly happy with listening to the Catholic Church and removing a big chunk of their calendar.

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