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What Is Labor Burden? How To Calculate Your True Payroll Costs

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Labor burden—also called payroll burden—is the amount you pay your employees, including their paycheck and any additional benefits that you’re responsible for. These additional costs include things like insurance, paid time off, remote work stipends, bonuses, or any other expenses.

Knowing your labor burden rate makes you a more informed business owner. Calculating your labor burden in a way you can trust is crucial for understanding your true costs and your business's profitability. We’ve put together a guide to calculating yours.

What is included in payroll burden?

Payroll burden will include any and all expenses you pay to keep your employees — from their paycheck to their benefits. These direct and indirect costs give you a picture of the true cost of your workforce.

Payroll burden percentage includes:

  • Payroll taxes
  • Paid time off
  • Retirement benefits
  • Health insurance

Why should I know my labor burden rate?

Your employee’s salary alone doesn’t give you the full picture of how much they’re costing your company. Your labor burden rate helps you be more informed about true employee cost, including fluctuations in health insurance, benefits, and other voluntary costs.

Knowing this metric helps you make more informed decisions about which benefits you can realistically afford, whether or not you can onboard more employees, and where you can cut costs.

Examining labor burden rates on a global scale can also help you hire abroad. Average labor burden rates vary from country to country, so seeing how yours stacks up to other countries helps you make the decision to look globally or keep your employees closer to home.

Labor taxes across the globe

Payroll taxes vary across the globe—for example, Belgium’s labor taxes are 5,260% more than those in Colombia.

According to the OECD, here are how various countries' labor taxes stack up when combining income tax and social security contributions from both employer and employee:

How do labor taxes vary across the globe? 
USA 28%
Colombia 0%
United Kingdom31%

Information on this page was last updated on May 24, 2022, and is subject to change. Velocity Global makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the information on this page.

How to calculate labor burden rate

Simply put, your labor burden rate is your indirect employee costs divided by your direct payroll costs. Let’s break down each part of this equation.

1. Determine employee's gross pay

Gross pay is the amount you pay in wages before any deductions like tax, 401K, or insurance rates are taken out. In other words, your employee’s gross pay is just their salary or hourly rate.

For hourly employees, you’d calculate gross pay by multiplying the hours your employee works per week by their hourly rate and then the number of weeks they work per year.

2. Calculate the cost of payroll taxes

Next, employers must calculate payroll taxes they are responsible for paying on their employees’ wages. The employee pays their own portion from their wages, and employers foot the bill for the employer percentage.

For example, in the U.S., these payroll taxes are often broken down like this:

  • Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). These taxes include Social Security and Medicare.
  • Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA). Employers contribute 6% to federal unemployment taxes on the first $7,000 they pay their employees during the calendar year.
  • State Unemployment Tax Act (SUTA). This is usually an employer-only tax with a rate that varies from state to state.

Do you want to calculate how much it costs to hire an employee abroad? Use our employee cost calculator below to get reliable insights into employee costs and payroll contributions around the world:

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Please fill out your contact information and hiring details, and an expert from our team will be in touch with you shortly.

3. Calculate other voluntary payments 

Some employers take on additional payments by providing supplemental benefits to their employees. While these may attract quality talent to your organization, they also up your labor costs.

Some supplemental benefits employees may provide include:

  • Additional paid time off
  • Additional retirement plan contributions
  • Supplemental private health insurance

Add up any benefits you provide as part of your global compensation package and include them in your indirect labor costs.

4. Total the individual percentage 

To get your payroll burden rate, use the following formula:

  • (Indirect employee costs / direct payment costs) x 100

Indirect payment costs are the costs found in steps two and three above—taxes, insurance, and benefits. Direct payment cost is your employee’s gross wage.

For example, say you pay an employee $60,000 per year. You also pay an additional $8,000 when you factor in taxes, insurance, and benefits. That means you’d divide $60,000 by $8,000 and multiply by 100 to get your payroll burden percentage, which would be 13%.

Calculate accurate payroll costs

For global companies, compliance is key when it comes to hiring and paying your employees. But being aware of exactly how much labor is going to cost you in various parts of the globe can also make or break your company — for example, taxes, benefits, and wages are vastly different in Tokyo vs. France.

Learn more about global payroll compliance and how to avoid the risks in our complete guide to global payroll compliance.

Or contact Velocity Global, your global payroll compliance expert, to see how we can help you stay informed about your labor expenses.


Disclaimer: This information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or tax advice and is for general informational purposes only. You should contact your attorney or tax advisor to obtain legal and/or tax advice with respect to your particular situation. Only your individual attorney or tax advisor can provide assurances that this information—and your interpretation of it—is applicable or appropriate to your specific situation. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on this information is hereby expressly disclaimed. All content is provided "as is," and Velocity Global makes no representations or warranties concerning this information.

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