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Payroll, benefits and compensation: area of work

In a graduate career as a payroll officer, you’ll make sure employees are paid on time and sort out benefits packages.

Payroll staff are there to ensure that all staff receive their wages accurately and on time, usually on a monthly basis. While the most visible function is producing the pay slips every month, the work that goes into that includes close communication with managers and HR colleagues to find out about new recruits, promotions, and agreed benefits packages, to name but a few.

What it involves

Professionals in this area typically work within the human resources (HR) department or finance department, though some (generally in very large organisations) work within specialist functional departments. Benefits and compensation typically fall in the payroll officer's remit, but can also be allocated to separate job functions.

In its most basic form this area includes:

  • managing the company pension scheme
  • answering queries
  • delivering employees' pension payments accurately and on time

Benefits and compensation packages may also include flexible working schemes, business expenses, holiday entitlements, bonuses, company cars, and much more. The relevant HR or benefits officer will play a key role in deciding on the benefits packages offered, as well as ensuring their smooth operation.

In some ways, this area is a thankless one – staff expect their wage slip at the end of every month, and if there's a mistake then it can be very costly. But professionals in this area are also there to communicate with staff, to enhance understanding and, especially with benefits, get to hand out the perks to very happy employees.

What's required

It's possible to get into this area through any degree discipline, but preferred routes can include human resources management, business studies, economics and sociology. You'll need good numeracy skills, but also a wider understanding of employee relations and good communication skills. If the job role is within a wider HR department, the professional CIPD qualification is highly valued by recruiters.

Work experience will help greatly – temporary agencies will often have some support and administration roles that will help you build up knowledge in the area. Or contact local firms in your area and ask if you can undertake a work experience placement with them.

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