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. Here's a paycheck stub example, automatically generated by the Hourly app:
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 amount), 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:
Pay stubs typically include information on both the employee (including name, address, and social security number) and the employer (including name and address). If you're using a payroll app—like Hourly— this information might be easily accessible elsewhere for the employee to view and amend if needed. Typically, this information would be gathered before an employee starts or on their first day.
Your employee’s gross wages (sometimes referred to as gross income) are their pre-tax wages. This is the total amount your employee has earned before any federal income tax, state income tax and 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 at least the following minimum information (though your state law may require more):
- Gross pay for both the individual pay period and YTD earnings
- Hours worked
- Regular pay rate
- Additional earnings (including overtime pay)
- Accrued time off (including sick time and vacation time)
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, and you—the employer— are in charge of withholding taxes.
Deductions that should be included on an employee’s pay stub include:
- Income tax deductions (including federal tax, state tax, and local taxes that fund things like unemployment and disability insurance, Social Security, Medicare, and other critical services)
- Deductions for employee benefits (for example, health insurance, health savings accounts, life insurance or contributions to retirement savings)
- Voluntary deductions (for example, charitable contributions)
- Involuntary deductions/Wage garnishments (for example, court-ordered child support payments)
Just like gross wages, information on deductions should be included for both the individual pay period and year-to-date.
As an employer, you’re required to make certain contributions on behalf of your employee (for example, the employer portion of the FICA tax, also known as Federal Insurance Contributions Act). You may also make additional employer contributions, like contributing to insurance premiums or your employee’s retirement or savings plan.
While these contributions aren’t deducted from your employee’s wages, they are can 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.
In the end, all the information on a pay stub leads to one key number—the employee’s net pay or take-home pay, which is how much money they’re actually bringing home on payday. Paycheck stubs include both the net pay for the given pay period and the YTD net pay. While many employees elect to use direct deposit, it's critical you provide them with a record of the amount of money sent to their bank accounts for each paycheck.
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—including 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!