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Our expert advice on getting your school’s payroll set up and keeping it updated

A note from Cole School Experts: This post is part of a series of blogs that focus on getting your school’s payroll sorted. Read more about getting your school payroll sorted and avoiding payroll risks 

In our previous posts, we’ve shared the importance of having clear payroll systems and procedures in place. However, the real key to payroll success is in your setup. That’s right — getting your payroll sorted from the get-go is one of the best ways to avoid the big payroll pitfalls that can cause your team undue stress and waste valuable resources.

Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into your payroll system setup, and identify some of the key considerations to keep an eye on to ensure you don’t miss any important steps.

Make sure your software still fits your requirements

The first step in getting your payroll systems in tip-top shape is to take a look at your software. In many cases, your school selected your payroll software years ago, and you might not have had a chance to review it to ensure it’s still the right fit. 

Good school payroll software will take a lot of the burden away from your team by automating regular processes, along with reducing the chance of human error. In addition, once you’re properly set up, many programs will also help you to correctly calculate leave accrual provisions, which can be enormously helpful to your school finance team.

There are a whole host of options available, and it can be hard to compare features to determine the right one for your school. If you need help, it’s always a good idea to enlist a consultant to walk you through your options and provide you with tailored advice so you can move forward with confidence.

Set up each team member in your payroll system in accordance with their EA levels and contracts

Once you’re satisfied with your chosen software, it’s time to enter each staff member into the system and ensure their payroll information has been added correctly. We’re not going to lie — this process can take a lot of time — however, if you do it right, it will save you a lot of hassle in the future. 

You’ll need to ensure that each staff member has both their standard pay details entered, and the details for any other work they regularly undertake. For example, if a team member works in maintenance, but also coaches your sports teams, they’ll have two separate pay levels (and potentially, separate contracts) — it’s essential that all of this information has been correctly entered into your systems. Make sure you also set up leave accruals, with an accrual table for each change in entitlement.

Next, you’ll need to link each team member’s pay rate to their EA and/or award. When an increase in rates occurs (for either their EA or award), you’ll be able to change your paytable to update all of the employees linked to those pay tables — saving you stacks of time and ensuring no one is missed. For spread ESOs, we recommend adjusting the hours rather than the rate. 

Finally, train your team to use significant dates and tracking (dated comments) for any increment increases, future payroll changes, Step or Grade increases, FTE changes or contract end dates. This means you’ll have a clear understanding of all staff pay changes, and a record to refer to if any issues arise.

Create solid, documented payroll procedures and schedule health checks

Even the best payroll system setups can fail if there is no clear system for keeping all records up to date. When we support a school to set up a new system, we can develop a payroll systems policy and payroll process guide for administrators to use. This includes a documented process from beginning to end, important deadlines for the school to note, and detailed instructions for how to perform each payroll task.

From there, we help each school schedule health checks to ensure that all crucial information is up to date. This doesn’t just cover checking the setup of the payroll software, but includes employee details, leave balances, contracts, systems updates and more. It’s best practice to implement a payroll period checklist with criteria for each process.  

Consider calling in the experts

Navigating the world of school payroll can be overwhelming, however, having an efficient and effective payroll setup is essential. Without a proper payroll setup, your school is likely wasting valuable time and resources performing minor tasks, investigating discrepancies and undoing mistakes. 

If you believe your system setup isn’t giving you value for your investment, it might be time to call in Cole School Experts. Our Payroll & HR consultants can work with you to sort out your systems and processes from the ground up.

Interested in learning more? Talk to a friendly member of our team today!