Payroll Officer

Local authorities employ a wide variety of staff working in different jobs. Some work full time basis, others on a part-time or jobshare basis. They may be paid weekly or monthly and some may work several hours of paid overtime or be in jobs in which car allowances, shift allowances, unsocial hours, stand by and/or bonus payments are made. They may choose to join a pension scheme and have the contributions deducted from their pay.

The payroll department has to ensure that they are all paid correctly and that all the records connected with their pay are kept up to date. In addition, a council may operate a payroll system for locally-managed schools, using information supplied by school administrators.

Work Environment
Payroll officers work indoors, in offices within council buildings. Most of their work is done seated at their own desks and using computer terminals. They may attend meetings in other offices and in other buildings.

Daily Activities
Payroll officers manage a team of payroll clerks or assistants. Their job is to allocate work to different members of the team and to supervise their work to make sure that payroll data is completed, checked and inputted - in time to meet the council's date for paying its employees each week/month. (Councils normally have regular day of the week on which employees receive their pay packets or a date toward the end of the month on which salaries are paid in to bank accounts and staff given a payslip.)  The payroll team check timesheets showing how many hours staff have worked, work out any bonus, overtime and other payments, calculate deductions made for income tax, national insurance and pension contributions and prepare pay slips, showing all the information. They also ensure statutory and occupational sickness details are processed.

Payroll officers are also responsible for making sure that all employees receive any annual pay increases due to them and that records are kept of the annual wages cost to each council department.  They produce statistics for department heads and managers as and when required.  They liaise with the recruitment and personnel departments in order to know when employees are joining, leaving or retiring - and make sure that all their pay entitlements are met.

Skills & Interests
Payroll officers need to be:

  • good supervisors - able to delegate work to other people; 
  • competent in the use of IT systems; 
  • accurate and methodical; 
  • able to work on own initiative and within a team; 
  • well organised, with powers of concentration, the ability to pay attention to detail - and to prioritise work in order to meet deadlines; 
  • knowledgeable about national and their own council's terms and conditions of service for different jobs, plus national insurance and income tax regulations.

They must be able to respect confidentiality of information. For example, they must not discuss employees' salaries or personal affairs. (Sometimes they may be required to deal with Attachment of Earnings Orders or Judgement Debts made by the courts and ensure that the amount of money in question is deducted from the employee's pay and paid to the court office.)

Entry Requirements
Educated to NVQ II or equivalent with some evidence of further professional development. However, many entrants have higher qualifications. You will also be required to having working knowledge of payroll issues and experience of teamwork in a pressurised environment. Previous experience involving the use of computerised payroll databases is required.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
A small council might employ one or two payroll officers responsible for a small team of two to three assistants.  In a large council there might be two to three principal or senior payroll officers, eight or nine payroll officers and 20 or more payroll assistants.  Future opportunities could involve progression to a payroll manager role.

Further Information & Services
Association of Accounting Technicians
The Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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