01 July 2021

Simon Parsons MSc FCIPPdip MBCS, director of UK compliance strategies at SD Worx UK, takes us through the different steps on how payroll can prevent and rebuild a breakdown in employee trust

The pandemic has resulted in widescale disruption affecting both business stability and growth; and it’s likely that we’ll see its impact continue through the coming years. And these ongoing disruptive changes, which have compelled leaders to downsize by cutting staff numbers and reducing employee hours, have complicated the process of building and maintaining employee trust in many of the hardest hit sectors, including construction, hospitality, healthcare and education.

Many leaders now need to grapple with both external and internal issues, with the anticipation of potential lockdowns and further lost revenue, as well as these new challenges around maintaining and developing employee trust. Businesses need to remedy internal issues by being attentive to the growing apprehensions of staff or face a disengaged workforce and a potential uptick in people leaving the company.


Boosting productivity through employee engagement

Most business sectors have been largely and negatively impacted by the pandemic, and this is reflected in morale trends. Research from SD Worx (see https://bit.ly/3xm7hyf) found that more than half of companies (51%) saw employee morale deteriorate, with hospitality (63%), healthcare (58%), the cultural sector (67%), and education (60%) showing the worst scores in this respect. In addition, there was also 37% less recruitment of flex workers and temporary hired staff in the countries surveyed – indicating that industry confidence has taken a drastic fall.

The construction industry, like retail, hospitality, and leisure industries, has been dealt a considerable blow by restrictions and lockdowns. There has been widespread interruption to projects and a surge in redundancies, with 43% of construction businesses anticipating people cuts, as highlighted by the report Retaining talent in construction (https://bit.ly/2TBYjhW) from the Construction Leadership Council.

So, how can trust be rebuilt for employees in these sectors? One way is through payroll management which is explored below.

Pandemic apprehension greatest amongst construction workers

The trust between employer and employees is based on the payment they receive for a day’s work, and all workers need the guarantee of steady payroll income to finance their bills and rent costs – so this is a must-have for employers to avoid their employees losing faith.

Upheaval through 2020 impacted employees based on-site across many sectors – construction workers and restaurant waiters alike – leading to the roll out of furlough schemes as well as increases in reliance on the temporary workforce, increasing challenges associated with reliable payroll management.

Despite short-term implementation costs, organisations that invested in workforce management systems profited from the benefits in streamlined people management. These systems not only handle the scheduling of employee timetables, but also keep track of the actual hours worked – monitoring overtime, hours clocked-in and -out, and sick days for thousands of workers, whether they are full-time, part-time, contractors or sub-contractors, across multiple sites.


Workforce management systems as a tool for eradicating manual systems

Handling information in a better, more efficient way decreases the time needed for administrative tasks and reduces errors. Workforce management systems can eradicate the need for manual form-filling and cross-checking – this way nothing can be misplaced or miscalculated. In addition, these workforce management systems can also provide a clear audit trail, thereby helping businesses comply with the regulations that are covered under schemes such as the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).

By integrating a workforce management system with payroll, it will not just ensure accuracy but will also allow organisations to automate processes and replace paper-based systems, such as payslips, with a digital version or copy.


Reducing human contact through digital payslips

There are further health benefits for payroll digitalisation in the context of the pandemic, as today’s workforces are now rightfully concerned about infections spreading across the workplace. The use of a self-serve system, where workers can access their payslips on their mobile phones or other personal devices, now means project managers no longer need to travel from location to location to hand out payslips risking cross-contamination through physical copies of payslips.

Self-service systems reduce human contact and also give workers better control of their personal information. They can log in themselves through online portals and see what is happening regarding human resources (HR) and payroll processes. This also prevents situations occurring where site managers are having to handle disputes over pay. There are numerous additional benefits, not least the fact that self-service systems remove the need for payroll teams to provide copies of past payslips, P45 forms or P60 certificates.

Payroll departments are also no longer required to update employee details. As workers are then able to access their own personal data and change their information, such as their address or bank details, payroll teams can become compliant with data regulations more easily. Significantly, self-serve reduces the time taken answering queries, given that it now means payroll teams no longer need to manually communicate data. Instead, payroll and HR data are now being inputted and checked by the employees, which also helps reduce the potential for keying-in errors.


Maintaining trust and minimising the risk of potential for error

Workforce management and self-service portals have many benefits beyond simply making the lives of the payroll team easier. These systems increase accuracy, reduce human contact and help empower individuals to quickly answer and resolve questions themselves, but the main advantage is the reassurance these systems can provide to employees.

Digitalisation in payroll helps maintain employee trust and can even assist in the rebuilding of it after a year of uncertainty. Digitalisation reassures staff through the communication and transparency on data usage, and also reassures payroll professionals by assisting with compliance in the back office.

Through greater levels of automation and streamlined processes, these payroll solutions will help organisations both emerge from what will be some of their most challenging years and to move forward in the best shape possible. 


Featured in the July/August 2021 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.