Staff shortages due to soaring COVID-19 infection rates are continuing to blight employers everywhere, with the situation not expected to ease any time soon.

One critical segment of the population is particularly vulnerable to this kind of disruption: payroll. The consequences of sudden absences in the payroll team can lead to challenges in producing a payroll that ripple through a business, and – crucially – delayed or missed payments can have huge consequences on colleagues who depend on their pay.

Maintaining appropriate payroll service must be an operational priority if organisations are to protect their workers and help us get through this winter surge.

What do payroll managers need to consider when planning for the worst? Here are three ideas that may help you:

1. Put together a checklist

It may sound simple but without a checklist, it will be almost impossible for someone else to step in and help if you, and key members of your team, have to go off sick.

A good checklist should include all of the essential steps that need to be taken to run your payroll. It should also cover what data is vital to the build-up of gross pay as well as the outputs required to both ensure compliance and that appropriate information is provided to colleagues and the business.

2. Consult the business continuity plan

At the most basic level, a business continuity plan should include the names of everyone who can step in and help if members of the payroll team are off sick. It will lay out which tasks are vital and which can be de-prioritised.

For example, it will always be more important to send BACS files to ensure staff payment than to produce a routine report about which employees are entitled to a uniform allowance.

3. Identify ways to access vital data

It is not just staff absence in the payroll function that can cause problems. Issues can also occur if employees in other departments are not available to provide relevant data. This means a plan is necessary to identify ways of accessing it.

These include various approaches for identifying new starters and leavers, being aware of whether previous period files can be reused and whether there are substitute data sets that can be employed in an emergency. Another consideration is prioritisation: remember that some data is more important than others.

For nearly two years now, we have been working to help our customers ensure they have the right systems, software and processes in place to ensure their colleagues get paid on time, and without error.

If you have any concerns about your own payroll processing or resilience in these challenging times, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.