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how to choose a great payroll bureau with Thomson Cooper

How to choose a great payroll bureau

8th September 2020

As part of National Payroll Week, Head of Business Support Elaine Cromwell outlines what makes a good payroll bureau.

Established over twenty years ago, our payroll bureau currently looks after over 5,200 individual employees each pay period, from organisations ranging from farmers, charities, hotels and pubs to recruitment specialists, professional firms and manufacturing businesses.

In our experience, organisations choose to outsource their payroll function for three main reasons: cost-savings, time-savings but most importantly, peace-of-mind.

The rules and regulations around payroll change frequently, are complex and copious in quantity. Many employers do not feel confident dealing with payroll and worry about getting it wrong.  Most recently, the hastily announced and implemented Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has highlighted to many, the benefits of having a specialist bureau looking after your payroll.  Mistakes in payroll can drastically negatively impact employee relations and cost your organisation significant amounts. 

But how do you go about choosing a reputable payroll bureau that will provide an accurate and reliable service? We’ve given you some pointers here to help in your search.    

Protection

Anyone can set themselves up as a payroll bureau so you need to be careful who you trust with your employees’ sensitive data. Consider a provider which is regulated by a professional body like the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS).  They will be subject to inspection and operate within ethical guidelines meaning you are better protected.  Bureaux offering to pay your staff by BACS must be approved – you can check a bureau’s status on the BACS website under ‘Approved Bureaux’ or by confirming their Bureau User Number.

Cost

Many more organisations are outsourcing their payroll because it is cost effective but don’t make your choice of bureau all about cost savings.  Pricing a payroll service is about understanding a client’s needs and tailoring a package to their requirements while assuring them of that sought-after peace-of-mind, not simply quoting a price per payslip.

Capacity

Make sure your provider has the capacity to take on your payroll, particularly if your pay day is near the end of the month, when most payroll work is undertaken.  Will they have adequate cover when their staff are on holiday? Do they have robust internal IT support? You need to be reassured that their team is large enough to provide a consistent, reliable service.

Contingency

A good bureau should be flexible and able to adapt to changes in the rules and regulations affecting payroll. What does their staff training program look like?  Does their team have the breadth and depth of experience to find solutions?  Can they offer a full range of services such as payrolling of benefits and benefits advice, P11d completion, assistance with termination agreements and dealing with secondees and workers from overseas?

Flexibility

Some bureaux stipulate how, when and what you must submit to them for processing, and offer little flexibility in terms of what they will provide as output to you or your employees.  While mutually agreed processes and procedures undoubtedly help ensure the smooth running of the service, some choice and ability to come and go a little, may be an important consideration.  

People

Great payroll providers put people at the core of their service. Polite, professional and well organised staff hold the key to satisfied clients. What is their client retention rate?  A helpful attitude and a prompt response go a long way to building trust and keeping customers happy.