Payroll: find the best people and avoid a media storm

Short-changed redundancies and high-profile payroll mistakes show just how complicated the calculations are. Find the right professionals to avoid morale-busting screw-ups.

I’m not at all surprised about the recent news that public servants taking redundancies are being short-changed — with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet having to repay dozens of its former staffers after mistakes by payroll officers left one worker $17,000 short.

The vast majority of public sector redundancy payments are incorrect, with redundancy calculations being some of the most complicated in payroll, along with long service leave provisions and superannuation rules.

Take my word for it: payroll is complicated and difficult. When it’s wrong, particularly when it involves large organisations or government departments, it ends up in the press. Who can forget the headlines screaming “Queensland Health payroll debacle”, the untidy management of Department of Defence overpayments, or the Clive Peeters $20 million payroll fraud? In light of the most recent redundancy underpayments in Prime Minister and Cabinet, I have come up with three key pieces of advice to help ensure public sector professionals avoid such mistakes.

Most people think payroll is a simple calculation of hours by rate, then a deduction of an amount of tax before adding some superannuation. While this isn’t necessarily untrue, it doesn’t take into consideration the decisions that need to be made by payroll professionals that affect the final payroll outcomes throughout that process.

FREE membership to The Mandarin

Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.

The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.