An HR Glossary for HR Terms

Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms

Retro Pay

What Is Retro Pay?

The definition of retro pay (short for retroactive pay) is compensation added to an employee’s paycheck to make up for a compensation shortfall in a previous pay period. This differs from back pay, which refers to compensation that makes up for a pay period where an employee received no compensation at all. Calculating retro pay and sending it out as quickly as possible is important to keep employees satisfied while keeping the company on the right side of labor laws.

What Are Some Payroll Mistakes That Require Retro Pay?

Most of the time, compensation shortfalls happen when compensation changes aren’t reflected in the following payroll run. Here are a few examples:

Can Court Rulings Require Retro Pay?

There are situations where an employee can take their employer to court in pursuit of retro pay. These include the following:

How Do I Calculate and Distribute Retro Pay?

When figuring out retro pay, consider the following:

To get a gross figure for retro pay, calculate the difference between what the employee received and what the employee should have received, factoring in all overtime and pay differentials.

Most often, retro pay is calculated manually and added to the next pay period as miscellaneous income, rather than adding extra hours or making changes to the pay rate for a single paycheck. Employee withholding choices and employer payroll taxes also apply to retro pay, so employers need to ensure that these are reflected in payroll accounting.