What Is A Pay Stub—And What Does It Need To Include?

An illustration of a paycheck stub
min read
October 21, 2020

When you pay your employees each pay period, you’re compensating them for the time they worked, whether they’re exempt or hourly employees.

But if your employees just get a check or a direct deposit, all they see is their net pay—and they might have questions as to how you got to that number. For example, how much of their pay was taken out for income tax? How many hours were they compensated for in the pay period? Or how much have they been compensated this year?

That’s where a pay stub comes in. Pay stubs give your employees key insights into their gross pay—and what deductions are being taken out of their checks each pay period.

But what, exactly, is a pay stub? What information does it give your employees? And as a small business owner, are you required to give your employees a pay stub with each paycheck or direct deposit?

What is a pay stub?

A paycheck stub (or pay stub for short) is a paycheck attachment that goes into the details of an employee’s pay. If you give your employees physical checks, the pay stub is an actual attachment to their paper check. If you pay your team electronically, their paycheck stub would be digital.

Pay stubs help your employees get a better sense of their compensation, including their rate of pay, gross earnings (both per pay period and YTD), and any deductions that are being taken out of their pay, like income tax and employee benefits. 

What information do you need to include on a pay stub?

Paycheck stubs offer insights into a few key areas of employee pay, including:

General information

Pay stubs typically include information on both the employee (including name, address, and social security number) and the employer (including name and address). 

Gross wages

Your employee’s gross wages are the total amount your employee has earned before any income tax or other deductions are removed from their pay. 

If you have hourly employees, their gross wages are calculated by multiplying their hourly rate by the number of hours worked in any given pay period. So, for example, if you have an employee that has a $20 hourly rate and they work 80 hours in a pay period, their gross wages would be $1600 ($20 x 80).

If you have exempt or salaried employees, you would calculate their gross wages by dividing their salary by the number of pay periods per year. So, for example, if you have an employee with a salary of $52,000 and you pay them weekly, their gross wages per pay period would be $1000 ($52,000 / 52). 

When it comes to gross wages, pay stubs should include the following information:


Gross pay is how much your employees earned—but that’s not how much they take home each pay period. There are a variety of deductions that come out of your employee’s pay, and those deductions need to be itemized on their pay stubs.

Deductions that should be included on an employee’s pay stub include:

Just like gross wages, information on deductions should be included for both the individual pay period and year-to-date.

Employer contributions

As an employer, you’re required to make certain contributions on behalf of your employee (for example, the employer portion of the FICA tax). You may also make additional employer contributions, like contributing to insurance premiums or your employee’s retirement plan.

While these contributions aren’t deducted from your employee’s wages, they are typically still included on the employee’s pay stub.

Again, employer contributions should be listed for both the individual pay period and the total contributions for year-to-date.

Net pay

In the end, all the information on a pay stub leads to one key number—the employee’s net pay, or how much money they’re actually taking home from their gross wages. Paycheck stubs include both the net pay for the given pay period and the YTD net pay.

Are you required to provide pay stubs for your employees?

Clearly, pay stubs provide a host of helpful information to your employees. But are you required to provide them?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (also known as the FLSA) requires business owners to track their employees’ hours, but how they track that time is ultimately up to them. But while pay stubs aren’t mandated under federal law, they are required by the majority of states—include California.

So, if you’re operating a business in California, you need to provide your employees with an itemized pay stub for every pay period worked. But even if pay stubs weren’t a requirement, as a business owner, they provide some serious benefits.

When you issue pay stubs through your payroll service every pay period, you can easily track your employees’ hours, pay, taxes, and deductions. By keeping your finger on the pulse of your employees gross wages and net pay, you can more quickly spot any mistakes or discrepancies and correct them before you run into any issues—with your employees, your benefit partners, or the IRS.

Automate the pay stub process with Hourly

Issuing pay stubs to your employees is a must. But manually tracking all the information you need to include on pay stubs is a time-consuming hassle. With Hourly, there’s no need to worry about keeping track of employee hours or deductions. Our app automatically tracks wages, hours, and deductions, allowing you to issue accurate, up-to-date pay stubs with a few simple clicks.

Ready to simplify your payroll process? Get started with a free trial of Hourly today! 

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