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Add another string to your bow with payroll expertise

The ICB’s Garry Carter outlines the importance of payroll for sound financial management Payroll is an important element of financial management.

January 2019

The ICB’s Garry Carter outlines the importance of payroll for sound financial management Payroll is an important element of financial management. Accounting students often forget the importance of payroll and, far too often, fail to see it as a career in its own right.
Payroll isn’t just a calculation based on a predetermined tax code. It’s far more personal than that, and increasingly encompasses human resources and employment law. Payroll management, as an extension of bookkeeping, demands the same high level of detail and accuracy. Getting paid on time and accurately might be motivation in itself, but employees now want more from their payslip.
They know their top line salary, but leave it up to their payroll manager to ensure that their deductions are correct. They don’t always appreciate how they fit into the ‘bigger picture’, but recent revelations at the BBC and other larger employers has highlighted the previously unseen differences between pay and benefit scales. New legislation being introduced will make compulsory the release of figures to show comparisons between people doing the same job, whether in terms of gender, ethnicity or seniority, bringing new focus to the payroll function. Although currently targeted at larger firms, it is highly likely that the focus will move further down the list of companies until everyone is covered. This demands new levels of professionalism from those who manage payrolls. Wages clerks are a thing of the past. Step up the certified payroll manager.
So why is it that so many professional bodies shy away from offering a stand-alone payroll qualification? I believe this is partly down to the annual changes that invariably take place each financial year in the Budget and Finance Act. Trainers struggle to keep up, particularly as most changes happen halfway through the traditional academic year.
Rewriting training materials is costly and time consuming and having to change tuition halfway through a course of study can be problematical, not least for the tutor. But times are changing. With the advent of cloud technology and online e-learning, training has the means to be more up-to-date, more flexible and more relevant.
In recent years we’ve seen the introduction of new rules on maternity and paternity leave and paid absence for a range of other personal reasons; extended working lives; the disappearance of the expected job-for-life; zero hours contracts; real-time information; and auto enrolment pensions. So many changes that demand increased knowledge, but which make payroll a dynamic and exciting career opportunity. Add to this the influence of GDPR and the emergence of online payslips and the enhanced compliance element of payroll, and you will see why some see this as the career of choice. Payroll is an integral constituent of sound financial management.
Even if your end goal is to be a qualified bookkeeper or accountant, payroll is a worthy additional string to add to your bow. The future for whole swathes of the profession is up for debate, but one thing has never been in doubt: the more you know, the more employable you are. So when everyone else comes out at the end with the same qualification, those who have taken the initiative and added further certificates and qualifications to their CV are more likely to be offered the opportunity.

• Garry Carter is President and co-founder of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers

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