For most of us in the business world, we have long stopped talking about ‘returning to normal’ when the shadow of Covid-19 has receded. Instead, there is a growing realisation that there will be a ‘new normal’ – a drastically different way of organising our business affairs that takes the health of our workforce, our suppliers and our customers to totally new heights.
It’s no different in the world of payroll, and it’s now up to us, as an industry, to develop better and smarter ways of addressing this critical business component in a way that’s both safe and sustainable.
As the leading provider of Sage Payroll to Irish SME’s, we’re well placed to take the lead on this issue, and have been busy over recent weeks putting together a list of key actions that you can take right now to make a return to full productivity as simple and painless as possible.
- Keep your software up-to-date. Software such as Sage Payroll is constantly evolving to meet the emerging needs of its users. By regularly checking that you’re using the most up-to-date version of software , you’ll benefit from getting the fullest level of functionality from your investment. Another tip is that if you’ve got separate home PC and work PC and process payroll on both by transferring backups, you should make sure that both computers are running the same versions.
- Stay closely connected to ROS. Without doubt, ROS has been one of the biggest aids to busy payroll professionals since being introduced in September 2000. But to get the very best from it, you need to make sure that you sort any connectivity issues right away – whether you’re operating from home or from the workplace. The ROS Helpdesk is an excellent source of advice, while your own IT people can also make sure that everything is working smoothly in terms of connectivity.
- Sort your payroll sooner than normal. Because of these strange times that we’re living in, payroll may become more complex than normal, as different shifts or work patterns may be introduced in your company. We recommend that you run your payroll at least a day earlier than normal, giving yourself a bit of extra leeway if anything unexpected should arise.
- Make sure you’re not the only one who knows how to run your payroll. In smaller companies, there may be just a single employee who’s proficient in Sage Payroll or similar systems. If that person is you, then think about changing that situation as a matter of urgency. Business is challenging enough as it is right now – you don’t want to be responsible for a mini-crisis in your organisation should you become ill or injured. In an ideal world, you would train someone in your payroll software to a level of proficiency where they can take it in turns with you to run the weekly or monthly payroll. If this proves to be beyond the resources of your company, then make sure you write down a detailed note in running your payroll software. Also make sure that this is handed over to a senior member of management, and satisfy yourself that they’re aware of any passwords or usernames that they might need.
- Keep notes around what you’re doing with the TWSS. If your company is taking part in the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, you should keep detailed notes of what you’ve done – and when. Because this is a one-off event, it can be very easy to forget what happened during the depths of Covid-19. When Revenue Reconciliation time comes around later in the year, you’ll really be grateful that you have a full set of notes on your actions around the TWSS.
- Backup more often than ever. Backup is always important, but it’s become even more critical during these strange times. Simply put, you should never ever skip backing up your payroll. Also, make sure that if your payroll data is stored locally on your PC, you shouldn’t make the mistake of also backing up to there. If your PC goes down, your whole payroll (including any backups) will also be lost. And always save your backups in a different location to your Payroll data.
- Do your homework before applying changes to your payroll. If you’re not sure about a new payroll procedure – whether it’s brought about by legislation or is simply new to you – make sure you do your homework before applying it across your payroll. Your accountant or payroll support company can help you with that, and it can save you an enormous amount of time and hassle in trying to unscramble a mess of figures. This is particularly true if you have already submitted them to Revenue online, or only discover your error weeks or months later.
- Delegate, delegate, delegate. If your payroll process involves input from others in the organisation, you need to make sure they they know exactly what is expected of them. Provide written timelines and deadlines, and make sure that those third parties fully understand how their actions feed into the bigger payroll picture.
- Email your payslips. If you don’t already email payslips to your staff, this is a great time to start. Pretty much all software, including Sage Payroll, will have this feature built-in, so make sure you avail of it. It means that even if you’re working from home, payslips can always be delivered in a simple and timely manner.
- Examine and amend your payroll process. Now is the time to cast a completely fresh eye over your payroll process, making sure that it reflects new ways of working – including teleworking. For example, if your current process involves you receiving manual paperwork, see if this documentation could be made available to you in electronic format. Not only does this allow you to work from anywhere, but it also plays a key role in maintaining social distance.
- Look to import your payroll. If your payroll is large and you are currently entering the payments manually, consider the possibility of importing them. This is a possibility in most payroll software such as Sage Payroll and can end up saving you lots of time that can be better used in other areas of your accounts function.
- Setup a non-contact method to take payroll queries from employees. To maintain social distance and avoid unnecessary visits to your office from your own employees, make sure you have systems in place whereby they can contact you, instead, via phone, text or email.
If you implement all or most of the measures above, you will be in a much stronger position to hit the ground running as your company returns to work, and looks to take its place in the new normal that may well be with us for years to come.