What is

Back Pay


Back pay refers to the wages or salary that an employer owes an employee for work performed during a previous period but not yet paid. Read the full definition.

Payroll can be complex to manage. As a result, employers may end up owing their staff back pay. This is the amount an employer owes a worker for services performed during a previous period but not yet paid. 

The concept of back pay sounds similar to accrued payroll. However, there are some crucial differences in the meanings of these two terms. Their implications for workers and finance teams are also very distinct. 

What Is Back Pay?

Back pay refers to the wages or salary that an employer owes an employee for work performed during a previous period but not yet paid. Back pay is usually the result of an error or delay on the part of the employer. This could include anything from administrative mistakes to disputes over wages or violations of labor laws.

Employers have a legal obligation to pay employees for all hours worked. Failure to pay will usually result in the employer owing back pay. This means that the employer will retroactively compensate the employee for everything they are owed. The compensation goes beyond the base salary and should include bonuses, social security commissions, and benefits.

Understanding Accrued Payroll

Accrued payroll, on the other hand, is an accounting concept. It also records wages or salaries owed to employees for completed work but doesn’t arise from a mistake or a dispute. Simply put, it’s part of the way that companies record their payroll information. 

The company typically records accrued payroll as an expense on its financial statements, and it is an integral part of the accounting process. The accrual ensures that financial statements accurately reflect the company's obligations and liabilities, even if the payments haven't been made yet.

Distinguishing Between Back Pay and Accrued Payroll

Back pay and accrued payroll may appear similar on the surface, but they serve different purposes and have distinct implications. Back pay is a retroactive payment owed to employees for work performed during a previous period. Accrued payroll, on the other hand, represents the liability a company incurs for wages earned by employees within a pay period but not yet paid.

The two concepts arise for different reasons. Back pay is a legal obligation as per the labor code. Accrued payroll, however, is an accounting practice that ensures accurate financial reporting. 

They also represent different obligations for the employer. In the case of back pay, employers are responsible for paying the employee what they owe. Meanwhile, accrued payroll represents the responsibility of the employer to maintain accurate financial records. 

Compliantly Manage Your Global Payroll with Borderless

It can be challenging to navigate the nuances of payroll, especially on a global scale. Avoid the hassle and partner with Borderless instead. We help you compliantly manage and pay employees anywhere in the world. 

Our global payroll platform simplifies payroll processing no matter where your employees are based. Book a demo to find out how