Organizations and businesses were left unprepared for the fallouts and recession that COVID-19 caused. Before the pandemic, payroll has never been a significant concern, unless there was an issue with payment or incorrect calculations.
Often, payroll is forgotten and was regarded as simply an administrative back-office function. But the pandemic has changed the importance of payroll. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, payroll teams have had to make various adjustments to adapt to various changes and find immediate solutions.
Payroll and the Pandemic
The COVID-19 outbreak has led to disruptions of businesses worldwide. To contain and mitigate the pandemic, most of the employees were sent to work from their homes. With that, payroll has fundamentally shifted.
Some smaller businesses with small in-house payroll teams did not have enough staff to process payroll. Other companies that rely on a legacy system or on-premises equipment find it hard and challenging due to the switch to remote working.
Additionally, some businesses were not able to continue operations as there has been a problem with employees not being paid on time. A year and more than a half into the pandemic, challenges and changes continuously test businesses’ resilience.
Fortunately, other business functions were able to be executed at home. But payroll processing remained complex and payroll professionals have to constantly adjust to changing regulations. As such, these tasks became a significant challenge to most payroll professionals and HR specialists.
Given the various changes in managing payroll and the absence of a specialist’s knowledge or support, it became hard to establish a business continuity plan for many. Here are some of the changes during the COVID-19 pandemic in payroll:
- Payroll has become more of an essential role – As payroll became more recognized with its essential role in businesses operation this pandemic, it has been on top of various organization’s priorities. To prevent the disruption of payroll, businesses also realized the importance of creating a comprehensive and robust continuity plan.
- The need for modernization – In today’s digital world, one might think businesses have gone past the traditional ways of paper-based payroll. However, many businesses stuck with the old ways. But because of the pandemic, paper-based and in-person processes have now moved digital. To limit physical interactions, organizations were prompted to eliminate paper-based processes. As such, it has greatly influenced the payroll’s move to contemporary processes such as schedule changes, check printing, government forms, timecards, employee updates, etc.
- Constant flexibility is required – One of the many changes that the COVID-19 brought is the constant change in regulations. Some of these are Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act (OSHA) changes, CARES Act, and the recent payroll tax deferral executive order. All of which can change from one week to the next. Moreover, aside from regulations, the significant changes to the workforces led to the increased demand that the payroll should work together closer than ever before with the HR teams and processes to ensure that employees are paid on time and compliantly.
The Future of Payroll
It is expected that the payroll will continue to change for years to come. While the future cannot be predicted, here are some of the key trends for the future of payroll:
- Digitalization will continue to accelerate the need for real-time data for employers to review.
- Employees might demand more flexibility regarding their working hours, working location, and payroll.
- Organizations will need to offer more flexible payment options and financial wellness benefits. These include access to earned wages and on-demand pay solutions.
- The greater need for modern payroll solutions – According to a 2018 payroll operations survey, only 36 percent of organizations use cloud-based technologies for their payroll functions and only 21% are considering switching to the cloud soon. But due to the pandemic, the importance of modern payroll solutions was realized.
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