Payroll certification program gets a facelift

Two new certifications on the horizon

The Canadian Payroll Association (CPA) is overhauling its certification process and has come up with two new professional certifications for payroll practitioners.

The old certifications — Payroll Manager (PM) and Payroll Supervisor (PS) — will be replaced with Payroll Compliance Practitioner (PCP) and Certified Payroll Management (CPM) certifications starting this fall.

Over the past year the CPA has been researching and designing the new professional certification, with the goal of developing a program that will be recognized by employers as the knowledge requirement for payroll professionals, as well as to respond to member needs and raise the profile of the payroll community.

The first initiative was the development of a research project. It queried members, non-members and their employers about the skills and competencies that were important to payroll professionals and to identify any knowledge gaps that might exist.

“Knowing what both the payroll professionals and their employers need helps us to ensure the recognition of payroll as a profession is met today and in the future,” said Patricia Kelly, chair of the certification redevelopment task force and CPA past chair.

The research indicated there were four main factors that had to be considered:

•payroll compliance through an annual payroll cycle is the primary knowledge requirement for all payroll practitioners;

•communication, decision-making and legislative monitoring are critical skills for payroll practitioners;

•payroll bridges both the accounting and HR functions with 65 per cent reporting to accounting, 25 per cent to HR and the remaining 10 per cent reporting to a combination of HR and accounting or to the president;

•65 per cent said that to increase the value and scope of their payroll-related activities, it would be best done through reporting to HR.

PCP and CPM: The new certifications

The research clearly indicates there are two types of payroll positions and that there is then a need for two certifications, the first being a Payroll Compliance Practitioner (PCP) and the second being Certified Payroll Management (CPM). Within those certifications, learning goals have been developed and a comprehensive syllabus and curriculum have been designed to meet the following outcomes.

PCP certification:

•meet the compliance requirements for the payroll practice through an annual payroll cycle;

•effectively communicate payroll issues to all stakeholders; and

•understand the accounting function as it relates to the payroll practice.

CPM certification:

•analyze payroll issues in-depth;

•make decisions, supervise and manage;

•do legislative monitoring;

•demonstrate expert knowledge of payroll practices; and

•contribute a payroll perspective to organizational policy and strategic discussions.

Course layout

Two comprehensive course outlines were developed that outline specific learning outcomes for PCP and CPM certification.

Both certifications will require a professional code of conduct (currently under development), professional membership and continuing professional education.

The PCP certification will consist of four courses including payroll fundamentals one and two, payroll compliance legislation and introduction to accounting.

The CPM certification will consist of four to five courses including advanced payroll management one and two, organizational behaviour management, managerial accounting and compensation and benefits management.

Professional accreditation, not seminars

The certification program will become the core program for the CPA as the association emphasizes professional accreditation rather than seminars. As this transition occurs, the certification offerings will be positioned in a continuous learning cycle.

Individuals may be introduced to the CPA’s education and training programs either through an introductory level professional development series seminar or CPA accredited courses at post-secondary institutions.

Individuals will also have to maintain payroll competency through continuing professional education to maintain their certification level. This may include more advanced professional development series seminars, training and post-secondary education.

Grandfathering and transferring

Transition into the new certification program will be achieved through a grandfathering process that will run for a three-year period. This process is expected to start in late 2005 and run through 2008.

Current holders of the Payroll Manager (PM) certification will be grandfathered directly into the new CPM certification. Those practitioners that hold the Payroll Supervisor (PS) certification will be grandfathered into the new PCP certification.

Students who are at various stages of the current certification program will have the opportunity to transfer to the new program during the transition period. Individuals who will be transitioning from the old program to the new — and new students to the program — will be encouraged to use the knowledge assessment calculator to self assess their strengths and identify areas of weakness. The calculator, also known as KNAC, technology developed by the American Payroll Association, will enable Canadian payroll practitioners to assess their skills and competencies confidentiality on the Internet. This, combined with challenge examinations, will enable practitioners and professionals to decide on their own individual learning plan to obtain certification.

Cathy Cummings is the senior education co-ordinator at The Canadian Payroll Association and is the staff lead on the certification redevelopment task force. She can be reached at [email protected].

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