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Payroll and the Coronavirus - some practical considerations to be prepared


Gemma McDonnell-Mossop

Independant Payroll Consultant - Payroll Edge Consulting

As news of the Coronavirus changes, many employers are feeling the effects of the virus directly

and indirectly.

Often, an organisation's focus will be on any direct impacts to the health and well being of their

people, and the impact on business operations, but as Payroll there are some things we can do to

help prepare ourselves and to help our organisation manage employee payments through this

time, with as little disruption as possible.

In addition to all the travel, self-isolation and other advice from authorities, here are some

practical considerations for Payroll.


Staff that are unable to travel due to travel bans, who are unable to come into work due to self

isolation or those that may have been diagnosed with the virus and be receiving treatment may

need to make arrangements to access allowed and available leave entitlements.

  • Speak to your HR team to understand what entitlements can be accessed and when, andwhether any special arrangements are in place in your organisation to support staff that are affected.

  • If the staff affected are unable to access a self-service portal or the usual method of providing leave requests, consider whether you have alternative arrangements in place for employees to communicate and for the necessary approvals to be provided to payroll.

  • Consult with your key operational teams to ensure that the alternative arrangements are appropriate for line managers who may already be under increased pressure with reduced staff.

Time Records

Some employers may make arrangements for staff to be able to work from outside the o􀃬ce, or

possibly even from their overseas location if they are caught in travel bans and unable to return to


  • If you rely on time records being completed on-site (i.e. clock in/out or time sheets completed on site) you may need to think about how these staff can report their working time and get the appropriate approvals.

  • If staff are outside of Australia, what considerations need to be made for the different time zones and payroll deadlines?

Staying Informed

If you organisation has set up a working group to manage the impact of the Coronavirus, it may

be worthwhile to see if you can be included to the updates or briefings, or alternatively have a

contact who is included to be able to share any relevant updates with payroll.

In addition to the information the group may be able to share with payroll, think about what

information payroll may be able to provide to this group to assist in their planning and monitoring:

  • Staff who have been on leave/ are currently on leave and when they are expected back to help plan staff availability and monitor staff that are on leave with affected return dates.

  • Available leave balances for affected staff (if they are going to exhaust their entitlements, being able to plan with the staff member may help avoid financial stress).

Payroll Business Continuity Plans (BCP's)

A Payroll BCP is what you plan to do if payroll is directly affected. In the contect of the Coronavirus, this could be that you have key staff or payroll team members unable to attend the office. If you already have a formal plan in your organisation, now is the time to review it and make sure that you are familiar with the process and key triggers.

If you do not have a formal plan in place, start thinking about what may happen if one or more staff are affected and what measures you may need to make at each trigger point to ensure you are able to complete the payroll process.

  • You may be able to cope if 1 person is affected, but what if 2 or 3 members of your team become affected?

  • If you have an office that could become heavily affected, is it feasible to isolate key staff to reduce the risk of transfer, such as working from home or another office location? and if that is possible, do you need to arrange equipment such as laptops for those staff? Do you need to liaise with IT around remote access to systems?

  • Is there an opportunity to start training alternative staff as a back-up? Include any key operational staff (such as those that submit or approve time sheets) when you are thinking about this.

  • Do you need to look at engaging additional resources to support, and what is the minimum lead time? Do you need to review any supplier agreements with labour hire companies?

  • Could your payroll vendor be affected, and what impact does that have on your payroll operations?

  • Is there any "single person failure"points in your payroll process (a step or series of steps that can only be performed by 1 person)?

  • If the worst does look imminent, and you may not able to complete a payroll on time, what is the communication process to ensure that the people who need to know are kept up to date? What steps will be taken to resolve the issues as quickly as possible?

With luck, most items in a BCP will never need to be called upon, but these plans are important to have in place. Thankfully with the Coronavirus in Australia we have some time to think about out what plans we have in place to cover the people involved in the process, not just the systems. IT Disaster Recovery Plans generally only cover the infrastructure and systems, but rarely include the people needed in a key function.

About the Author

This blog was written by Gemma McDonnell-Mossop an Independent Payroll Consultant. You can contact Gemma via her LinkedIn page.

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