‘Old-fashioned work ethic’ serves payroll

Payroll practitioners discuss their calling

To get an idea of the challenges facing payroll, Canadian HR Reporter sat down with a couple of practitioners.

Payroll officer
Ongwanada Resource Centre
Kingston, Ont.

While many payroll professionals started their careers in another field, Angela Ford might have a more colourful past than most — she has been a professional skater and a flight attendant.

For seven “wonderful” years, she skated with the Ice Capades, touring Canada and the United States. On leaving, she entered the aviation industry, doing mostly administration and finance, “with a little airtime as a flight attendant.” She even obtained her pilot’s license.

Eventually Ford came to work at an accounting firm and she has been in financial services ever since, going on to obtain her Payroll Management certificate from the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA).

For the last eight years, Ford has worked at the Ongwanada Resource Centre in Kingston, Ont., a non-profit organization that supports people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Ford is the payroll officer for 450 employees, with two unions and one non-union group. The finance department has a staff of seven, two of whom are exclusively payroll, and HR has five.

She is responsible for payroll operations that include time entry, employee deposits and the payroll ledgers. Ongwanada uses a data bureau that runs the payroll on a biweekly basis and time entries are done by a scheduling department.

Ford also handles all biweekly, monthly and annual payroll related remittances, such as the Canada Revenue Agency, union dues, garnishments, employer health tax, the Hospitals of Ontario Pension Plan and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

“As long as I’m in the chair I take pride in never letting the organization down. This can mean working weekends to complete a retro or pushing personal limits until the job is done, but this old-fashioned work ethic has stood me well so far,” she says.

There are some frustrations, she admits, such as computer systems generating unexpected results. And there are the challenges of keeping up with technology and staying current with legislative changes. But Ford says she loves her job.

“It has the right mix of technology and personal interaction. The technology keeps me humble and constantly stretching my limits.”

Payroll supervisor
A. Harvey
St. John’s, Nfld.

Lorraine Driscoll began her career at A. Harvey Group of Companies 16 years ago as a receptionist and clerical clerk. She never planned a career in payroll but she went on to become a payroll supervisor, a position she has held for the past 10 years at the St. John’s, Nfld.-based company.

There are four people in the payroll and HR department handling the payroll for 300 employees.

The best part of her job is the people, says Driscoll, who holds the CPA’s Payroll Compliance Practitioner designation, and “knowing that employees can come and talk to me on a one-to-one basis about their payroll and giving them advice and guidance.”

Of course, there are the downsides, such as the stress levels associated with deadlines, particularly year-end and T4 time, she says. Another challenge is creating reports for managers, as the computer system is not HR-friendly.

“I’m constantly going to the IT department and asking them to generate reports for me.”

A typical week for Driscoll means running three payrolls, which involves printing time sheet reports for the companies, verifying the information, key punching, more reviews to make sure everything is correct, printing stubs and reports, bursting the reports and handling stubs and bank transfers.

On a monthly basis, she backs up and runs month-end, prints, bursts and files reports, and does monthly remittances that involve: payroll taxes, union dues, garnishees, reports on hiring, pensions, group insurance, car allowances, key journal entries and business payroll surveys.

Despite it all, Driscoll can’t imagine herself anywhere else.

“It just happened but, looking back and ahead, I can’t see myself doing anything other than payroll.”

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