National Payroll Week 2022 – Finding your perfect payroll partner

Finding your perfect payroll partner – top 3 must-haves!

As part of National Payroll Week, this guide aims to outline the key elements you should look for in your quest to find the perfect payroll provider.

Why outsource your payroll?

In our experience, organisations choose to outsource their payroll function for three main reasons: to save money, to save time and most importantly, because it provides peace of mind.

The rules and regulations around payroll change frequently and can be complex. There’s pensions auto-enrolment, changing tax and national insurance legislation and Real Time Information to navigate. Get it wrong and you could be liable for some hefty non-compliance penalties.

For many business owners this creates a real headache, especially trying to keep track of everything. Some don’t feel confident dealing with payroll, and why would they when their expertise lies elsewhere?

Mistakes in payroll can negatively impact employee relations and take time to rectify. You need to keep employees right in relation to the correct treatment of benefits and ensure things like holiday pay are accurate.

That’s why payroll is one of the most popular functions businesses owners chose to outsource because they can’t afford to get it wrong. Faced with the cost of employing someone internally to manage their payroll function (think salary plus holiday and sickness cover, training, etc) versus a monthly invoice with everything taken care, many choose the latter.

What makes a good payroll bureau?

So what features are most important when it comes to selecting a payroll bureau? Our payroll bureau was established over 25 years ago and looks after over 7,500 individual employees each month. We understand the challenges that businesses owners face with payroll and related compliance issues and believe that reputation, capacity and collaboration are crucial factors to consider when outsourcing your payroll.

Regulation reduces risk

Did you know that anyone can set themselves up as a payroll bureau? Quite a thought considering they would have access to your employees’ sensitive data. Check credentials. How long have they been established, what qualifications do they hold and how many clients do they serve? We would recommend choosing a provider who 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’.

Another benchmark that demonstrates a bureau is serious about delivering a quality service is the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals Payroll Assurance Scheme (PAS).
It is the only voluntary accreditation on the market to be developed in partnership with HMRC, and is only achieved once the practice has completed a rigorous assessment that aims to ‘raise compliance standards through payroll procedures in the profession’. Thomson Cooper achieved accreditation in October 2021.

A reputable bureau will have the breadth and depth of experience to find solutions to your challenges and a planned staff training program to ensure their knowledge is kept up to date. 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? Ensure your provider is capable of delivering what your business needs.

Capacity and a cohesive approach

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.

Are they well organised? We have a process we follow that is straightforward and robust with reminders and timelines in place. This is essential so that clients know the deadline to submit information so we can ensure employees are paid on time. Once approved, salary payments are either actioned by clients directly or by one of our team who is authorised to send payments, with data being securely backed up on our servers.

Cost is important to business owners. Warren Buffett famously said “price is what you pay, value is what you get”. Make sure the bureau you choose communicates clearly, not just the cost of their services (for each element of service they are providing), but also the value. Efficiency and value are two of the core reasons our bureau has grown and continues to grow as we scale up to cope with demand.

Teamwork Triumphs

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.

The great thing about our team is that no-one works in isolation. They meet every week, discuss workload and share tasks so they can support each other which helps to ensure any issues or queries that arise are resolved quickly. Clients feel reassured that we have the knowledge and capacity to deliver an accurate, compliant and responsive payroll service all year round.

Clients state it makes sense for them to outsource their payroll primarily for the peace of mind it provides. ‘De-risking’ the function is what they value. If you want to know more about our bureau, we can arrange a no-obligation chat. Once we know your specific requirements we can create a bespoke proposal. If you decide to go ahead, we’ll work with you to make the switch quickly and with minimum disruption. Contact our Head of Business Support, Partner Elaine Cromwell at ecromwell@thomsoncooper.com or call 01383 628800.

Elaine J. Cromwell

Headed by Partner Elaine Cromwell, our BACS-approved Payroll Bureau sits within the Outsourced Finance division. The department has grown over recent years, with 11 dedicated staff looking after the payroll needs of 500 businesses.

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