How Straight Time Pay Works in the Workplace

employee getting paid, straight time pay

This guide will break down the concept of straight time pay and provide clarity on how to handle it efficiently.

What is straight time pay?

Straight time pay refers to the wages employers pay their employees for the regular hours they work during a pay period, calculated at their regular rate of pay. It’s the base pay your employees earn before any additional earnings like overtime.

In the U.S., the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates straight time pay. This law ensures that all workers are paid at least the federal minimum wage for their standard hours worked and defines the parameters for overtime compensation. Understanding these rules is essential to comply with legal standards and to manage payroll effectively.

Straight time pay Vs. Overtime pay

It's important to differentiate between straight time pay and overtime pay. Overtime is the pay employees earn when they work more than the standard hours set by the FLSA, typically over 40 hours per week.

This pay is calculated at a higher rate, often one and a half times the employee’s regular rate of pay, to compensate for the additional hours worked. Knowing how to separate and calculate these pays correctly is crucial for payroll accuracy and legal compliance.

How do you calculate straight time pay?

Calculating straight time pay is straightforward: simply multiply the number of hours an employee has worked by their regular rate of pay. But calculating straight time pay varies slightly depending on whether your employees are salaried or hourly. Understanding these differences is essential for accurate payroll processing.

Hourly employees

For hourly employees, straight time pay is calculated by multiplying the number of hours worked within the standard workweek by the employee’s regular rate of pay. This is straightforward if the hours stay consistent and under the overtime threshold.

Example: If an hourly employee earns $20 per hour and works 35 hours in a week, the calculation would be:

  • Straight time pay = 35 hours x $20 = $700

This method ensures that employees are compensated for each hour they work during the standard hours defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Salaried employees

Calculating straight time pay for salaried employees is a bit different, as they earn a fixed amount regardless of the specific number of hours worked. To determine the equivalent hourly rate for a salaried employee, divide their annual salary by the number of weeks in a year and then by the standard number of hours in a workweek.

Example: A salaried employee earns an annual salary of $52,000. Assuming a standard workweek of 40 hours:

  • Weekly pay = $52,000 / 52 weeks = $1,000 per week
  • Equivalent hourly rate = $1,000 / 40 hours = $25 per hour

Even though salaried employees are not typically paid by the hour, calculating this equivalent hourly rate can help in understanding their earnings per hour and assessing the fairness of their workload, especially if they frequently work beyond normal business hours.

Considerations for overtime

While salaried employees are often considered exempt from overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act, not all are. It’s crucial to understand whether your salaried employees fall under the exempt or non-exempt category, as this determines their eligibility for overtime pay.

Non-exempt salaried employees should be compensated for overtime work, typically at a rate of one and a half times their calculated hourly rate for any hours worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek.

Special cases

Some employees might have variable pay rates or non-standard work hours, which can complicate the calculation:

  • Shift differential: Employees earning different rates for working different shifts (e.g., night or weekend shifts) will have their straight time pay adjusted based on the specific hours worked at each rate.

  • Piece rate workers: Employees paid per unit produced or completed calculate their straight time pay based on the total units completed and the agreed rate per unit. To comply with minimum wage requirements, their total earnings divided by the total hours worked must not fall below the minimum wage.

What is the average rate used to calculate straight time pay?

In the U.S., the average rate used to calculate straight time pay can vary widely across different sectors and positions. This rate, also known as the employee's regular pay rate, forms the foundation for calculating straight time compensation, as well as for determining overtime payments.

Key factors in determining straight time pay

Hourly wage and regular wage:

For non-exempt employees, straight time pay is calculated based on an hourly wage. This is the agreed rate per hour worked during the standard pay period. The regular wage is straightforward: if an employee earns a set hourly rate, that rate multiplied by the hours worked equals the employee's straight time pay.


Exempt employees, who are typically not eligible for overtime hours regardless of the amount they work beyond their regular hours, are paid a fixed salary. The straight time rate for these employees is derived by breaking down their salary into an hourly equivalent, although it isn’t directly used for overtime calculations.

Overtime calculations:

For non-exempt employees, any hours worked over the standard 40-hour workweek are calculated at a rate of time and a half (one and a half times the regular rate). For example, if an employee’s regular pay rate is $20 per hour, their employee's overtime pay rate would be $30 per hour.

Averages across the U.S.

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer for the average rate since it varies by industry, job type, and geography, a general understanding can be gleaned from median wage data.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for U.S. workers is about $20.17 as of the latest reports. This figure gives a rough baseline, but actual rates can range from the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour to significantly higher wages in specialized fields.

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Understanding straight time pay and its calculation is essential for both employers and employees to ensure fair and legal compensation practices.

Whether dealing with hourly or salaried workers, exempt or non-exempt statuses, it's crucial to adhere to the established regular pay rate guidelines and accurately account for all hours worked, including overtime.

By maintaining transparency and compliance with wage laws, businesses can foster a trustworthy environment, while employees can be confident in receiving the pay they rightly deserve.

Topic: Pay
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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