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Managing Payroll In The Post COVID-19 Workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted labour markets globally in 2020. The short-term consequences were severe – people lost their jobs, small businesses struggled to stay afloat and employees scrambled to adjust to remote-working arrangements.

At the same time, we also saw how organisations and their payroll management schemes continually adapt and keep on top of the ever-changing schemes implemented by the Singapore Government to support employees through this difficult and uncertain time. Digitalisation, automated work processes and flexible working arrangements were some of the adjustments that organisations had to make in order to ensure employees are still paid their salaries in a timely and accurate manner.

Considering the way COVID-19 has impacted businesses and operations, organisations may have identified certain limitations in terms of HR operational processes when it comes to working remotely. As a result, many organisations and HR professionals recognise that there is a need to improve their payroll operations. Here are some of the payroll management trends that we can expect after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Increased need for cloud-based payroll software

The move towards a remote-working arrangement during the pandemic means that running payroll on excel spreadsheets or on-premise payroll software becomes extremely challenging and complex. The first limitation is the lack of accessibility, in which payroll staff are unable to physically go back to office to use the organisation’s payroll software. The second limitation is data security. Payroll contains sensitive and confidential information. Processing payroll outside of the organisation’s IT systems and servers exposes the data to potential security breaches and hackers.

The pandemic has highlighted an imperative need for advanced payroll systems that are accessible to employees regardless of location or geographies. Cloud-based payroll software addresses those limitations by allowing remote access to payroll data, eliminating the need for payroll staff to be physically present in the office while ensuring that the necessary data security controls are in place. Most cloud-based payroll software are also able to integrate other HR functions such as time-tracking and tax filing as well as regular software updates to ensure compliance with changes in employment laws and statutory contributions. This allows organisations to streamline standalone HR processes onto a unified HR platform, ensuring accurate and compliant payroll despite remote work arrangements.

Robust remote data security

While businesses gradually adapt to the new norm of hybrid working, data security within payroll software becomes an increasingly critical focal point for organisations today. According to Shred-It’s 2018 State of the Industry report, they found that more than 80% of C-suites in North America believe that the risk of a data breach is higher when employees work remotely. As organisations move towards adopting a hybrid work arrangement, in which employees are allowed to work a certain number of days remotely and the rest of the days in office, this means having to overhaul internal security controls to strengthen data procedures. Particularly in the case of payroll processing, where payroll staff have to handle sensitive and confidential payroll and employee records, it is imperative to introduce new data security protocols as well as educate employees on data security procedures.

Some of the new data security controls that organisations can put in place include multi-factor authentication (MFA) which requires the user to go through a two or more steps verification process before they are able to access the payroll system. Other controls could include introducing Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) instead of using unsecured WiFi networks to access payroll if it happens to be a cloud-based payroll platform. Besides implementing new data security protocols, payroll staff should also be trained on the internal data security procedures and well-equipped with the necessary knowledge to handle potential payroll data breaches.

Integration of payroll system with HRMS

The shift towards hybrid in-office and remote working also stresses the need for integration of payroll software with other HR functions, such employee attendance, leave application, and expenses management. Organisations can consider platforms such as Human Resource Management System (HRMS) that supports the full spectrum of payroll functions.

Remote working means that there are certains limitations if HR functions were executed on individual software or platforms. This could include delayed payroll processing times, inaccurate employee records, failure to accurately capture employees’ reimbursement, delayed expenses reimbursement and more. By integrating payroll with the organisation’s human capital management system (HCMS) or HRMS, this facilitates accurate tracking and record-keeping of employees’ details and payroll information. This also means that salary items such as leave applications, expenses claims or allowances are automatically captured during payroll processing. The result? Minimal payroll errors, high payroll accuracy and timely salary disbursement which in turn leads to happy and engaged employees

When considering the impact that the COVID-10 pandemic had on payroll, it is clear that traditional payroll processes will change. While it is difficult to predict what the exact changes are, organisations need to be agile and adapt quickly to the changes. Besides automating administrative processes and leveraging on technology to streamline workflows, it is also crucial to ensure that payroll remains accurate and compliant at all times. In these current times where hybrid-remote working becomes the new norm, organisations have to find ways to ensure payroll remains highly efficient and cost effective.

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