The great leap forward

Some think February 29 should be a national holiday. Or do you love your job enough to work for nothing?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It may not have escaped your attention that you didn’t have to work this day last year, on the perfectly reasonable grounds that it didn’t exist. So this year, those of us on an annual salary are effectively working an extra day for free. Isn’t that generous of us?

There are a few sympathetic employers out there. The National Trust has given its entire 50,000-strong workforce the day off (though admittedly most of them are volunteers anyway, so it’s not exactly a costly decision). Dubbed ‘The Great Green Leap Day’, Trust staff are being encouraged to go home and ‘green their own lives’. It’s been trying to get other organisations to follow suit, in an effort to combat climate change, but so far the silence has been deafening (although surprisingly enough the trade unions are all for it…)

Then again, leap years have been happening for 250 years – so we can’t say we weren’t warned. And perhaps we ought to count our blessings – when Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, we lost 11 whole days so we could catch up with the sun. We’re not quite sure if 18th century employers were benevolent enough to pay their staff for these missing days, but somehow we doubt it.

What’s more, if you’re paid on a monthly basis, you’re still getting more money for each day you work in February than at any other time of the year. Since we wouldn’t be too pleased if our employers docked our wages in a 28-day month, it’s a bit rich to complain now.

Equally, some of you may not have a problem with February 29. For instance, if you’re paid on an hourly or daily rate, you can rejoice in the knowledge that you’re cashing in while all those smug permanent staff around you are working for free (it’s not often temps get one over on the rest of the workforce, so make the most of it).

And you might even see it as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage – to get one over on your less-zealous competitors back at home tending their compost heaps. As a teenager, England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson famously used to practise his goal-kicking on Christmas Day, theorising that he’d get an advantage over all those other fly-halves who were sitting at home watching the Queen’s speech and tucking into turkey sandwiches.

So if you can make the most of today, maybe you’ll be doing the business equivalent of kicking a last-minute drop goal to win the World Cup before too long. The compost heap can wait until the weekend.

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