Payroll’s expanding role (On Payroll)

CPA survey shows senior management, practitioners want payroll to add more value

While the key responsibility of payroll professionals is to pay employees accurately and on time, they wear many hats in an organization. The results from the Canadian Payroll Association’s Payroll Roles & Responsibilities Survey, a survey of 1,300 payroll practitioners and 700 employers conducted in 2005, showed that only one-third (34 per cent) worked solely in the traditional payroll department. As many as 66 per cent of payroll practitioners are multi-taskers whose work takes them into payroll, accounting, IT and HR activities.

Most significantly, both senior management and practitioners said they wanted payroll to add more value to their organizations by providing advice on issues related to compliance and compensation, such as employment standards, health benefits, retirement programs, compensation and payroll-related IT systems.

Of the employees that responded, two-thirds were senior managers who had decision-making roles. Payroll practitioners do much more than processing. They ensure employees are paid, remittances and benefits payments are made and compliance requirements are met. There is support for payroll to assume the role of a trusted advisor to management and for it to be positioned as a professional compliance role and not be seen as a transactional activity.

Employers indicated there are opportunities for practitioners to increase responsibilities in areas such as employment standards, benefits programs, retirement income arrangements, compensation policies, privacy legislation and payroll-related IT systems.

Payroll professionals are also the primary communication agents on wages and benefits for both employees and management. Communication is the most common activity for every level from payroll administrator and co-ordinator to supervisor and manager. The CPA has responded to this by adding significant communication content to its revised certification programs. In addition, it has made communication the key deliverable at all of its 21 National Payroll Week events across the country this September by providing attendees with effective communication tips.

Survey respondents were from organizations of all sizes, though half were from organizations of 51-500 people. The opportunities for increased roles and responsibilities are the highest in organizations with fewer than 200 employees (followed by those with 201-500 employees) and in organizations without an HR department because payroll is currently handling these activities. (For more results from the CPA’s study, see “On the Charts” on page 25.)

Becoming a trusted advisor

What will it take to become a trusted advisor? That role is anchored on payroll practitioners demonstrating:

•a comprehensive knowledge of legislative compliance requirements;

•an ability to apply that knowledge in day-to-day activities;

•competency and efficiency in monitoring legislative developments;

•precision in managing payroll accounting activities; and

•the professionalism to treat all employee-related information with confidentiality.

This is the foundation on which payroll professionals can build an even more substantial role for themselves for the benefit of their organizations.

With increasing and ever-changing compliance, privacy and other business and labour legislation requirements, organizations need to be able to quickly adapt. Qualified payroll practitioners can be key in enabling the organization to continue to grow and succeed. Organizations need to tap into their payroll practitioners’ understanding of technical, reporting and employee systems and procedures to strategize ways to improve operational efficiency at a variety of levels. Given the opportunity, payroll professionals have the knowledge and skill to contribute to the organization’s bottom line.

This Sept. 11-15, during National Payroll Week, the HR department should help the payroll community create awareness within the organization about the extensive knowledge and contributions payroll professionals make. Put a human face to the pay slips. Often the only time payroll professionals hear from employees is when there is an error. This year find a way to say: “Thank you, payroll!”

By the numbers
National Payroll Week runs Sept. 11-15

Canada’s 1.4 million employers annually pay more than $615 billion in wages and benefits, $190 billion in payroll remittances to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and the Ministère du Revenu du Québec (MRQ), and $50 billion in health and retirement benefits. They also issue more than 24 million T4s and 8 million RL-1s — which are mission critical to business, government and employees. Now in its 12th year, National Payroll Week recognizes the significant work that payroll professionals contribute to the national economy by “keeping Canada paid.”

Wendy McLean-Cobban is the manager of marketing and communications at the Canadian Payroll Association. For more information on National Payroll Week, visit

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