Are you making the most of the opportunity to help your clients with their payroll?
The Australian payroll landscape has changed significantly this year, placing increased pressure on your small business clients.
Helping your clients navigate their ever-changing payroll compliance obligations is a great way to extend your service offering.
Accountants, given their wealth of experience around compliance, are in a good position to advise their business clients. What a lay person may miss while interpreting awards or new schemes like JobKeeper, their accountant may spot.
Here are three areas of payroll compliance that you can help your clients navigate – to ensure they don’t get caught out.
1. JobKeeper compliance
The swift introduction of the JobKeeper scheme in April this year saw many businesses struggling to understand its requirements.
There was plenty of confusion around how businesses should be passing the payment on to employees using Single Touch Payroll (STP) and managing those payments to ensure compliance with the scheme.
With JobKeeper being extended by six months to March 2021, introducing lower payment rates and additional eligibility testing, your clients will be looking for support to ensure they are compliant.
You can help them with applying for the JobKeeper extension and in proving their continued eligibility for the scheme. You can also help ensure they are passing on the correct revised payments to their employees and that they are no longer paying those who are now ineligible.
There’s also scope for helping them prepare for a possible JobKeeper audit by the ATO, which has made it clear it will “conduct compliance and audit activities to ensure the JobKeeper Payment is passed on to employees” – specifically by tracking payments through STP.
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2. Award interpretation
In recent years, some of Australia’s most well-known companies have made headlines for underpaying staff due to payroll errors.
A leading supermarket chain admitted to underpaying staff by $390 million, while a popular restaurant group underpaid staff by $7.8 million, amongst many high-profile cases.
The growing trend of wage underpayments has placed increased scrutiny on businesses. Such is the scale of the problem that in June 2020, Victoria introduced a new law criminalising ‘wage theft’ – a first for Australia.
Helping your clients get their payroll right could be an untapped opportunity for your practice. Your guidance is invaluable to help them navigate the complexity of Australia’s industrial relations system.
Your clients must deal with all sorts of complexities like regulatory updates, managing different employee types, status, and pay scales. They may not know, for instance, which award a new employee should be paid under. This confusion is often the cause of underpayments.
Many businesses, large and small, lack the expertise and support required to stay abreast of regulatory changes and interpret awards correctly. As their trusted adviser, you can help guide your clients to ensure they are paying their employees correctly, in line with the correct award, so they don’t get caught out.
3. Understanding annualised salary requirements
In addition to guiding your clients through the complexity of awards in general, you can also help them understand their obligations around new annualised salary requirements.
On March 1st this year the Fair Work Commission introduced new obligations for employers who pay annualised salaries to employees covered by certain modern awards. The changes introduced three new standard ‘annualised wage arrangement’ clauses to 22 modern awards.
This presents significant opportunity for your practice to provide guidance to your clients, to ensure they correctly carry out their new obligations for salaried employees, including:
- Keeping time and attendance records for salaried employees, including start and finish times as well as unpaid breaks, for affected employees.
- Paying affected employees overtime and penalty rates for hours worked in excess of those prescribed within the annualised wage agreement.
- On an annual basis, comparing the salary paid against what an employee would have been paid been under the award.
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