Survey reveals evolution of payroll professional (On Payroll)

Payroll's not just about signing the pay cheques
By Wendy McLean-Cobban
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/10/2007

While the key responsibility of payroll professionals is to pay employees accurately and on time, they wear many hats in an organization.

Practitioners also play a major communications role in compensation and benefits programs. They ensure statutory remittances and benefits payments are made to external organizations, legislative compliance requirements are met and accounting and management systems receive vital data.

The results from a recent member survey by the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA) of more than 4,800 members (44 per cent of all members) — which measured and benchmarked members’ opinions, attitudes, expectations, satisfaction and valuation of the association’s products and services — illustrate the changing composition of the payroll practitioner and payroll department.

The top three issues facing the payroll community are lack of consistency, increasing complexity and volume of legislation. (See On the Charts below for more information from the CPA survey.)

Most significantly, the CPA found both senior management and practitioners want payroll to add more value to organizations by providing advice on compliance and compensation responsibilities such as employment standards, health benefits, retirement programs, compensation and payroll-related IT systems.

Payroll professionals are the primary communications point with management, employees, government and service providers concerning wages, benefits and compliance.

In fact, while 55 per cent of members have payroll-specific titles, a significant number have titles related to accounting and finance (22 per cent) and HR (eight per cent).

More than one-half of respondents report to the accounting and finance department while about one-quarter report to HR and 13 per cent report to the president or owner.

As to how much time is spent (on average) doing various functions, it is surprising to see members only spend 51 per cent of their time actually doing payroll, with the rest devoted to accounting (26 per cent), human resources (15 per cent) and information technology (four per cent).

Most CPA members work for smaller organizations with an average of 200 employees. Fewer employees generally means fewer people doing more, resulting in the integration of payroll with several other functions, including accounting, HR and IT.

While the majority of CPA’s members are located in Ontario, most members are doing payroll in a minimum of two jurisdictions, which could include the United States or United Kingdom.

As for background, members have an average of eight years’ experience in payroll, while more than one-half have more than 10 years’ experience.

Hopefully employers will increasingly be aware of the extensive knowledge and contributions payroll professionals make within their organizations. Often the only time payroll professionals hear from employees is when there is an error, so a “Thank-you payroll” is always appreciated.

Wendy McLean-Cobban is manager of marketing and communications at the Canadian Payroll Association in Toronto.


Regulations abound in payroll

Canada’s 1.4 million employers pay more than $660 billion in wages and benefits to employees annually, $220 billion in payroll remittances to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and the Ministère du Revenu du Québec (MRQ) and $70 billion in health and retirement benefits, along with issuing more than 24 million T4s and eight million RL-1s — while also complying with more than 185 federal and provincial legislative acts.

Number of legislative acts requiring payroll compliance

Federal 21

Alberta 11

British Columbia 8

Manitoba 14

New Brunswick 8

Newfoundland and Labrador 10

Northwest Territories 13

Nova Scotia 13

Nunavut 13

Ontario 18

Prince Edward Island 9

Quebec 29

Saskatchewan 10

Yukon 7

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