Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled an update to the Job Support Scheme yesterday to offer extended support to workers in England where tier 2 coronavirus restrictions apply. But how should payroll teams prepare to adapt their services when the furlough scheme ends on 31 October? Anne Stapleton outlines the key considerations.
As the new Job Support Scheme replaces furlough from 1st November, businesses will be under increasing pressure to ensure they deliver accurate on-time payroll services to their employees.
What are the challenges payroll teams face as they prepare for the new scheme while having to address the remaining demands around Statutory Sick Pay, carryover of annual leave, and direct earnings attachment orders?
Below we look at the key ways payroll managers can ensure their processes and systems are adaptable and ready to deliver payroll when the scheme starts.
Understand the new scheme and test the approach
This is a complex scheme and it will require time for teams to fully get up to speed. It is important in the run-up to the start date, that you create the space to understand the new rules and how they affect your employees. It is also key that you ensure any changes to the payroll processes and systems are documented and tested.
How will your technology support the transition?
In addressing these kinds of payroll changes, you must have the most appropriate technology solutions in place. Organizations that have two separate systems, one for HR and one for payroll, running in two different environments, will by default never get the same access and immediacy of results as if they were running it in one HR/payroll solution.
Payroll depends on great HR data; by running payroll and HR in one system you remove much of the need for manual intervention and increase your chances of obtaining high-quality information from the process and supporting it with strong governance and control.
Ensure you have secure remote access
It is one thing having the right solutions to drive payroll efficiency but these systems must also support security and remote access. These remain key foundations of any remote payroll team preparing to meet the stipulations of the new Job Support Scheme.
Having reliable, secure access to the payroll system via a virtual private network (VPN) is critically important. You need a resilient, secure network to guard against hackers.
Issues with the VPN must be quickly addressed as any “downtime” means you are unable to access your system and the business risks having unacceptable delays to payments or having teams finding insecure “work-around solutions”.
Even in the cloud world where access to systems is becoming easier, you must still ensure your payroll application has the right security controls in place to ensure access is only being made from the appropriate people as well as from, and through, the correct addresses.
Train-up payroll teams
Training is fundamental throughout this period of uncertainty. You need not just to know about the latest legislation but also to be aware if updates to the system have been made when testing has been carried out, and what the implications of that will be in day-to-day payroll.
Keep connected when working from home
Changes such as the new Job Support Scheme can be more difficult to manage when the whole team is working remotely. In the past, these kinds of updates would have been discussed through a face-to-face meeting. In the remote working world that characterizes today’s payroll, it is vital you ensure those kinds of meetings continue and that teams are fully supported.
Microsoft Teams and other collaboration tools can play a key role in making this happen. These have been key in ensuring payroll teams working remotely; address issues and concerns quickly as a group; and always feel supported in undertaking the work they are doing.
The only aspect of the coronavirus situation that is predictable is its unpredictability. That said, it is important you keep on top of all the latest news and information so you can see what is coming down the line. The new Job Support Scheme has lots of changes that will come in through its lifecycle and payroll teams need to be prepared for these.
The broader picture may change swiftly too as the DWP implements the government’s response to financial pressures and the imposition of further coronavirus-related restrictions or guidance. Payroll teams must be ready for new instructions as they emerge since they are potentially so far-reaching.
Put the right processes in place
The implications of the new schemes put in place to support employees through the pandemic are likely to continue for some time to come. You need to be adaptable to this. You have most likely already had to deal with multiple complications, encompassing everything from statutory relief to furloughed employees going on maternity leave – all with payroll implications.
To ensure you pay employees accurately, you need to have your documentation and processes fully in place so you can deal with everything from calculating manual payments to Statutory Maternity Pay where required. Effective documentation and processes are key to ensuring you can operate as close to business as usual.
The new Job Support Scheme is complex and will require a raft of new planning and processes to be implemented. If you manage payroll, you have to be even more prepared for change as we continue through this pandemic.
Unpredictability remains the hallmark of the times but if you follow the tips above, you will be well placed to deal not only with the Job Support Scheme but the future change in the months and years ahead.