All I want for Christmas is to not be a headline!
If there is one issue that has haunted Australian businesses throughout 2019, it’s wage theft. This year we’ve seen some of the biggest brands in retail and hospitality stung with huge fines and back-pay costs thanks to misinterpretation of awards.
Woolworths, ABC, Bunnings, Michael Hill and Qantas have become the latest in a very long list of businesses facing payroll and remuneration compliance issues – and this seems to be just the tip of the iceberg.
With so many big brands making headlines it’s easy to wonder, what hope do smaller businesses have? The answer could be simpler than you think.
Why are so many businesses falling into this trap?
It seems straightforward enough: make sure your staff are paid correctly and you’ll avoid any trouble. But the truth is, Australia’s payroll compliance requirements are the most complicated in the world, which can make understanding payroll a minefield. Even if you think you’re doing the right thing, you could still find yourself in dangerous territory.
As a payroll specialist you need to understand the complexities of multiple awards, enterprise agreements, leave entitlements, loadings, and payroll tax, often across various states and territories.
You need to stay on top of award updates and ensure they are implemented on time, all while trying to keep abreast of superannuation, worker’s compensation and other industrial relations issues.
It’s little wonder so many businesses get it wrong – with dire consequences.
How do I stay on top something so complex?
Help is out there – there are a number of associations you can join to ensure you are on top of your compliance requirements. The Association of Payroll Specialists (TAPS) can help you stay up to date with the latest in payroll and they also have a handy helpline for when you run into trouble.
Fair Work is another great resource. They can help you with any payroll concerns, plus their super helpful pay calculator makes it easy to ensure you’re on the right track with your award interpretation. You can even sign up to their newsletter and follow them on Linkedin for updates.
Is technology the answer?
One bright light at the end of the tunnel is that while the constant changes are happening to awards and legislation, technology is advancing right alongside it. Solving the payroll compliance challenge could be as simple as finding the right software, but the trick is to know what you’re looking for.
When you’re choosing software to automatically process payroll data and help you navigate these nuances you should always ask:
- Will it help me address all the different legislative requirements?
- Does it allow for multiple pay categories and leave entitlements?
- Does it integrate with the ATO for TFN declarations and STP?
- Can it accurately handle enterprise agreements, awards and contractual obligations?
- Will it track any updates I might need to apply to my payroll calculations?
If you’re constantly trying to force your technology to do something it wasn’t really designed for, or creating multiple workarounds just to get your payroll finalised each week, then you are opening yourself and your business up to multiple compliance risks.
The right technology will also ensure you’re not overly reliant on a few key people. Your payroll team might be doing a great job now, but what happens if they leave? Staff turnover could have you scrambling for information and potentially leave you wide open to being yet another underpayment headline. An automated and compliant software system reduces the likelihood of human error, so you can rest assured that your employees are getting paid in line with the latest awards and legislation.
By Kathryn Charge.