The unseen side of payroll


Michael McAllister

Michael McAllister

Partner & Head of Payroll Services

05 September 2023


Payroll departments make sure everyone gets paid. Hugely important – but also pretty simple, right?

Not quite! People getting paid the right amount at the right time is absolutely critical, but making sure money lands in bank accounts is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the responsibilities of payroll specialists.

Behind the payslips, there’s a mountain of complex and ever-changing legislation for payroll experts to keep on top of, together with ensuring the all-important security of data.

Managing legislation

Within the ‘routine’ payroll cycle there are numerous variances and disparities to take into account alongside regular wages and salaries; statutory payments, termination payments, benefits in kind, salary sacrifice, flexible benefits, and PAYE settlement agreements to name but a few. All of these come with their own sets of rules and regulations in order to ensure they’re processed accurately.

For an employer, the risks of getting any of these aspects wrong can lead to investigations from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR), resulting in costly penalties. Therefore, it’s key to have a reliable team to stay on the front foot, navigating the minefield of legislation and advising employers on the correct course of action.

This becomes even more important for businesses expanding into Europe and beyond. The complexities of payroll multiply with internationalisation, with consideration needed in areas such as residency, reporting and regulatory requirements for each country and jurisdiction.

Protecting data

Something that often doesn’t occur to many people is the amount of personal information payroll functions must handle for individuals. Protecting this sensitive data is therefore paramount.

When it comes to the storage, use and transfer of the data, payroll advisers are responsible for adhering to the strict regulations as outlined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (the 2018 Act). With the increase in cybercrime, robust security measures must also be in place to keep data safe from potential attacks. Serious reputational damage and hefty fines are also at stake for those who fall on the wrong side of GDPR, so again it’s crucial to ensure this is managed correctly.

Trusted advisers

So – far from payroll being a simple operation, it’s clear that it’s a specialist role requiring significant expertise and vigilance.

Having access to the right experts to meet both UK and international compliance for your employees is vital. At Johnston Carmichael, we invest heavily in our people to ensure that our teams are equipped with the technical skill and experience to steer employers through the complex payroll world. 

We’ve invested with The Payroll Centre to ensure we have the resources we need to support our payroll team and, in turn, support our clients. We use The Payroll Centre’s Act platform to assess our team competencies and skillsets, allowing us to tailor our training needs to meet the requirements of the individual and the team as a whole. 

We also prioritise investment in technology - we use cloud-based software and aim to integrate payroll systems with others such as HR where possible. We also implement robotic process automation, to mitigate risk and streamline processes. Introducing digitalisation ensures that payroll operations are faster, more efficient, and more accurate. This means we can dedicate our resources to understanding your needs, tailoring our services and freeing up your team’s time to focus on your business objectives.

Get in touch

To find out more about our Payroll team and how we can work with you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or another of our specialists.


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