[UK] Do Payroll Professionals Count as “Key Workers”? [UK] Do Payroll Professionals Count as “Key Workers”?

[UK] Do Payroll Professionals Count as “Key Workers”?
24 Mar 2020

As part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the government announced the schools across the UK would close on Friday the 20th of March 2020.  Many parents will face the task of not only working from home but also looking after their children.

However, this announcement does not apply to children of “key workers”, where schools and childcare providers are being asked to continue to provide care.  These key workers have been identified in guidance published on the 19th of March 2020 and applies where one of the parents falls into the below categories:

  • Health and social care (“including but not limited to” doctors and nurses etc)
  • Education and childcare (including childcare, support and teaching staff, social workers and specialist education professionals)
  • Key public services (including those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services)
  • Local and national government (only including “those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response”)
  • Food and other necessary goods (including people involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery)
  • Public safety and national security (including police and support staff)
  • Transport (including “those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response”)
  • Utilities, communication and financial services (“including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure” and “payment providers”)

The guidance says that workers who believe they fall into one of the above categories “should confirm with their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service” 

Global Payroll Association Comment

So the question we ask is whether payroll professionals fall into the category of being key workers because they are payment providers.  A payment provider is (strictly) a body that enables payment services to carry on, e.g. PayPal, CHAPS and BACS.  So therefore, a key worker would be someone that works for anyone that providers these services. 

Although, is the payroll function itself a payment provider i.e. a provider of payments?  We definitely come under the heading as being within “financial services”.  And expanding on this, payroll can frequently not operate without information from the HR and accounts functions.  The list goes on. 

A colleague actually telephoned the Department for Education and asked the question.  They advised that payroll professionals would be deemed key workers under the financial heading as this is an essential function.  Payroll professionals staff should be able to send their children to school or a nursery should they wish.

In that case, the following line in the government’s guidance becomes applicable “If your school is closed, then please contact your local authority, who will seek to redirect you to a local school in your area that your child, or children, can attend”

It is a shame that more specific guidance was not issued rather than this very broad guidance about who is a key worker that will be entitled to have their children continue with their education.  It is also a shame that the guidance points workers back to their employer to make the ultimate decision.

As part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the government announced the schools across the UK would close on Friday the 20th of March 2020.  Many parents will face the task of not only working from home but also looking after their children.

However, this announcement does not apply to children of “key workers”, where schools and childcare providers are being asked to continue to provide care.  These key workers have been identified in guidance published on the 19th of March 2020 and applies where one of the parents falls into the below categories:

  • Health and social care (“including but not limited to” doctors and nurses etc)
  • Education and childcare (including childcare, support and teaching staff, social workers and specialist education professionals)
  • Key public services (including those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services)
  • Local and national government (only including “those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response”)
  • Food and other necessary goods (including people involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery)
  • Public safety and national security (including police and support staff)
  • Transport (including “those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response”)
  • Utilities, communication and financial services (“including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure” and “payment providers”)

The guidance says that workers who believe they fall into one of the above categories “should confirm with their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service” 

Global Payroll Association Comment

So the question we ask is whether payroll professionals fall into the category of being key workers because they are payment providers.  A payment provider is (strictly) a body that enables payment services to carry on, e.g. PayPal, CHAPS and BACS.  So therefore, a key worker would be someone that works for anyone that providers these services. 

Although, is the payroll function itself a payment provider i.e. a provider of payments?  We definitely come under the heading as being within “financial services”.  And expanding on this, payroll can frequently not operate without information from the HR and accounts functions.  The list goes on. 

A colleague actually telephoned the Department for Education and asked the question.  They advised that payroll professionals would be deemed key workers under the financial heading as this is an essential function.  Payroll professionals staff should be able to send their children to school or a nursery should they wish.

In that case, the following line in the government’s guidance becomes applicable “If your school is closed, then please contact your local authority, who will seek to redirect you to a local school in your area that your child, or children, can attend”

It is a shame that more specific guidance was not issued rather than this very broad guidance about who is a key worker that will be entitled to have their children continue with their education.  It is also a shame that the guidance points workers back to their employer to make the ultimate decision.