Aussie company offers loans to staff to bridge pay gap

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Australia's Queensland Health department has been forced to offer transitional loans to short-changed staff, as it makes long-overdue changes to its payroll system.

After more than two years of reports about payments to dead workers and missed pay cheques, the system will now be changed from a fortnightly pay cycle to a monthly cycle.

Yet in doing so, it will be three weeks between pays for some staff while the new system is introduced. A Queensland Nurses Union spokeswoman told ABC that staff have been given plenty of notice about the one-off change, but added there are concerns the change will put some workers under financial strain. “About ... 26,000 staff though [were] refused that transition loan, so we're very concerned,” she said.

It is hoped the transition will be the end if the longstanding pay woes at the department. Payroll expert Craig Osborne of Sage MicrOpay previously told HC that human error is to blame in the majority of payroll mishaps, but the added pressure created by scaling down payroll departments may be increasing the scope for error. “We’re finding that people [in payroll] are being asked on a regular basis to pick up other roles,” said Craig Osborne of Sage MicrOpay. But if people in the payroll area aren’t sufficiently focused or skilled, the situation is ripe for costly mistakes to occur.

Most payroll mistakes generally occur as a result of:

  • a lack of understanding of the correct awards, allowances and employment conditions
  • too many tasks being added to payroll responsibilities
  • administrative errors – both entering information incorrectly and/or being given incorrect information

Payroll often falls into the ‘if it aint broke’ category within organisations. “At the moment many businesses may have more pressing priorities, and it becomes more that they react [to problems], rather than they plan to avoid them,” Osborne commented.

While there are a range of factors that can create problems, payroll software cannot be completely ‘idiot proof’, and payroll teams must be given the right tools to do their job, including adequate training and support.

Osborne noted that it is not typical for employers to pay compensation alongside back-pay, but it really does come down to the relationship between the employer and the employee.

HR’s role in minimising the risk

HR needs to keep right on top of the payroll software used, assess whether it’s reliable, up-to-date and efficient, and whether newer products that can remove more human error risk factors are available.

Additionally HR should:

  • provide adequate training and administrative support wherever possible
  • focus on the talent pipeline: payroll requires specialist knowledge, and succession planning is vital
  • promote awareness of departmental workloads


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