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Skills focus needed in SA payroll industry

By in Business, Economy, Finance on August 24, 2016

The growing complexity of the payroll function is creating pressure on those managing and working in payroll departments to improve their skills and adhere to common standards.

“Globally, payroll is increasingly becoming a professional discipline,” says Lavine Haripersad, Vice Chairman of the South Africa Payroll Association (SAPA). “This means that everybody who works in payroll will need to ensure they have the right qualifications and skills to do the job. In line with other professions, belonging to a professional organisation like SAPA, which offers continuous professional development and sets standards, makes very good sense.”

Haripersad adds that employers will progressively be attracted to payroll professionals who are members of their professional organisation, as this is an indication that they are committed to the organisation’s code of conduct.

SAPA’s code of conduct commits its members to principles that include integrity, confidentiality, collegiality, engagement and collaboration, trustworthiness, competency, reliability, compliance, fairness and passion.

Increased compliance burden

Payroll has become much more than just paying employees accurately and timeously, though, of course, that remains a core function. The growing body of regulation relating to employment and financial management means a greatly increased compliance burden, and thus a significant risk for companies.

In addition, benefits administration is both critical and complex. Payroll data is also, of course, highly confidential, so data security is of particular concern in the age of digital business processes and cybercrime. In light of this, the soon-to-be-enacted Protection of Personal Information Act will be of particular relevance to payroll administrators.

In line with governance best practice, it has become necessary for payroll managers to adopt a systems approach to minimise organisational risk, and put the necessary policies and procedures infrastructure in place. Payroll managers are increasingly being drawn away from pure administration to interact at a more strategic level with the CFO and other senior role-players within the organisation.

Get qualified

“At the management level, a degree is becoming a must,” says Haripersad. “People are no longer simply finding themselves in payroll, as frequently used to be the case—now it’s a job one has to train for; one needs the broad skills and understanding to think and act strategically, and to create solutions. The same principle is true for those working in the payroll department, where a diploma is becoming necessary.”

Haripersad adds that those wishing to pursue a career in payroll should be sure to use institutions that are approved by SAPA. Diploma and certificate courses are offered at various service providers, including The Da Vinci Institute, which is associated with Accsys People Management Solutions, that introduced a B Com (Business Management) Applied to Payroll Employees degree in 2015. It is also important to ensure that courses are accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

“As the industry becomes more professional, those in it have the obligation to uphold its standards and ensure they themselves keep up to date with latest developments,” concludes Haripersad. “SAPA provides the framework to help individuals achieve their goals, and to hold them to the same professional standards.”