Martyn Faulkner: Reflecting on a career in payroll Martyn Faulkner: Reflecting on a career in payroll

Martyn Faulkner: Reflecting on a career in payroll
28 Feb 2016

Martyn reflects on a career in Payroll as he retires after 48 years in the business. The highs and the changes, the successes and the frustrations and his hopes for the future.

Martyn has been the curator of the UK's IReeN corner for the last 9 months so he will be familiar to you. He’s also been an active member of the IReeN committee since its inception, a founding member of the taxpayers data standards forum (TDSF) an employer forum working directly with HMRC, a tutor and examiner for APSA (the association of payroll and superannuation administrators), a forerunner of CIPP, a trainer for CIPP plus a member of many consultation panels with the then DSS and latterly HMRC.

The innocent years

The first system he used was Kalamazoo where everything was handwritten. ‘I remember’, he says ‘the innocence of the times where we would deliver the wage packets travelling in an unlocked black cab with two cases stopping off at appointed places to hand them over. It was totally acceptable for someone to say “Fred’s off sick this week, I’ll drop his wages off”. You knew they would and there was never any problems. Same route, same day, same time every week….’

‘Payroll in those days was very labour-intensive in so much as the raw data would be received, it had to be interpreted, processed, amounts calculated including sickness and holiday and the data prep sheets written up. The data prep services used were double entry so they would have keyed the data twice and sorted any differences and that meant the data entry errors were fewer than you’d expect with that volume of data.’

‘In the 1974 local government reorganisation meant that Stockport became one of the larger councils and so thousands of employees had to be transferred over. There was no method of transferring the data between the payrolls other than a print out that had to be keyed in.

"It was printed on continuous ruled paper (fondly known as pyjama paper) and there were 3 stacks floor to ceiling just for one council. All of which had to be manually entered, reconciled, corrected and so on. On this occasion it was the payroll team and not the data prep team that did the work. Oh, for a CSV file of data!

“The scary thing is that equipment similar to the kit we used to process the payroll and the printers in the 70s and 80s are all on display at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park alongside Colossus and the Witch that were used by the code breakers in WW2”

Developing data entry screens

"In the early 80s I worked with our IT department to develop a data entry system that also displayed the employee record using a DOS green screen. My then boss, an ex auditor, panicked when he realised there was little security – I changed my own salary to £99,000 as part of the demo so perhaps not the wisest move but actually in the long run we had a better product for it.

"So refinements were developed including, what we’d expect as a matter of course these days, built in checks and so the team were able to enter the data directly and not spend hours manually completing forms. It was all about making it quicker, easier and more efficient."

And that’s been Martyn’s ethos all the way through his career and is reflected in the work he’s done on TDSF, for IReeN and at consultation panels.

He goes on to say that "the advent of faster computers, sophisticated payroll and HR systems allowing direct data input and information access means that payroll professionals’ lives have changed significantly.

"We still need to understand the full terms and conditions of service and the legislation but now we aren’t high end data entry clerks and now adding value in an organisation. Yes, of course there’s still transactional processing but its now very different."

Why regular bulletins are so important

As for the profession Martyn’s concerns are that ‘some of the professional bodies have lost their way a bit. They are so commercial now that they don’t understand the real needs and wants of the profession.

That’s why I spent so much time researching and curating the IReeN updates so that I can pass knowledge and information on to the members as well as share best practice and act as a bridge with HMRC when there have been significant issues.

The Greater Manchester Payroll Association and the ones that have subsequently been set up in north Wales and Lancashire have been a great way to share best practice and stop others reinventing the wheel on communication of certain messages to employees and so on.’

‘I approached each bulleting thinking about the things that I would want to know because if I need it then I know that others will need it too. In Payroll we need as much advanced notice as possible as it can have so many implications, processes, procedures, direct impact on employees and or cost. We all need a crystal ball on our desks.’

Full and clear information for all

"One of the most disappointing things to me was when the notes for payroll software developers were ceased by HMRC. These were like a bible of information for all payroll professionals. And we’ve tried to fill this gap with the IReeN bulletin.’

"The trouble with many of the guidance releases from HMRC is that they aren’t prescriptive enough which leaves them open to interpretation or even misinterpretation by developers (employers and agents).

"The results are that the calculations aren’t exactly the same, the way data is held and reported may be different, and when further changes come along it’s compounded. Black and white guidance with no grey areas can only mean success for all of us including HMRC and so on."

If I had a magic wand

• ‘That the government would allow HMRC, DWP etc. to consult properly before introducing stupid things. The Chancellor and ministers need a wake up call, it’s all about what they have to deliver and hang the consequences. Just shooting from the hip without understanding the full picture. And its not just about it being tough for employers very often HMRC and their other colleagues are just told what to do and do it quickly and very cheaply.

• ‘All payroll managers would realise that they can’t operate wearing blinkers and they realise and they have to be proactive both in helping the business they work in and knowing about changes way in advance and then planning for them.’

• ‘HMRC would reintroduce the full notes for payroll software developers.’

• ‘HMRC have a better retention policy for key people. Something has to happen with the career structure as the turn over of people is too high and it means that not only is knowledge lost but so is precious time as people get up to speed.

“I approached each bulletin thinking about the things that I would want to know because if I need it then I know that others will need it too. In Payroll we need as much advanced notice as possible as it can have so many implications.”

What have I loved?

"Over the years I’ve met people that I worked with or people I’ve trained tutored and am pleased to learn that have they have moved forward in their careers often being very proactive and forward thinkers. If I’ve helped in the smallest of ways with this then it’s a good thing.

"The teamwork in all the departments I’ve been in has been great. We always pulled together, sometimes even working through the night, to make sure that deadlines have been met and people paid. It’s very much that old adage of reaping what you sow.

"Everywhere I’ve worked my aim has been to give the team as much support as possible not just in the role but their career, find the most efficient ways possible to do things and make improvements. The constant change in payroll has given plenty of opportunity to do that.

"And knowing that we’ve always done our absolute best to pay everyone what they are due and on time. It’s not just part of the job, it’s the job and unless you do that you might as well go home.’

Just in case you didn’t know Martyn has been influential in changes to legislation and process and lobbying over the years and this includes:

• Electronic P45s

• Good Friday agreement – implications where Good Friday is 5th April

• RTI

• Statutory payments

• HMRC’s communication with and guidance for employers

So we have a lot to thank him for, happy retirement Martyn.

 

Martyn reflects on a career in Payroll as he retires after 48 years in the business. The highs and the changes, the successes and the frustrations and his hopes for the future.

Martyn has been the curator of the UK's IReeN corner for the last 9 months so he will be familiar to you. He’s also been an active member of the IReeN committee since its inception, a founding member of the taxpayers data standards forum (TDSF) an employer forum working directly with HMRC, a tutor and examiner for APSA (the association of payroll and superannuation administrators), a forerunner of CIPP, a trainer for CIPP plus a member of many consultation panels with the then DSS and latterly HMRC.

The innocent years

The first system he used was Kalamazoo where everything was handwritten. ‘I remember’, he says ‘the innocence of the times where we would deliver the wage packets travelling in an unlocked black cab with two cases stopping off at appointed places to hand them over. It was totally acceptable for someone to say “Fred’s off sick this week, I’ll drop his wages off”. You knew they would and there was never any problems. Same route, same day, same time every week….’

‘Payroll in those days was very labour-intensive in so much as the raw data would be received, it had to be interpreted, processed, amounts calculated including sickness and holiday and the data prep sheets written up. The data prep services used were double entry so they would have keyed the data twice and sorted any differences and that meant the data entry errors were fewer than you’d expect with that volume of data.’

‘In the 1974 local government reorganisation meant that Stockport became one of the larger councils and so thousands of employees had to be transferred over. There was no method of transferring the data between the payrolls other than a print out that had to be keyed in.

"It was printed on continuous ruled paper (fondly known as pyjama paper) and there were 3 stacks floor to ceiling just for one council. All of which had to be manually entered, reconciled, corrected and so on. On this occasion it was the payroll team and not the data prep team that did the work. Oh, for a CSV file of data!

“The scary thing is that equipment similar to the kit we used to process the payroll and the printers in the 70s and 80s are all on display at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park alongside Colossus and the Witch that were used by the code breakers in WW2”

Developing data entry screens

"In the early 80s I worked with our IT department to develop a data entry system that also displayed the employee record using a DOS green screen. My then boss, an ex auditor, panicked when he realised there was little security – I changed my own salary to £99,000 as part of the demo so perhaps not the wisest move but actually in the long run we had a better product for it.

"So refinements were developed including, what we’d expect as a matter of course these days, built in checks and so the team were able to enter the data directly and not spend hours manually completing forms. It was all about making it quicker, easier and more efficient."

And that’s been Martyn’s ethos all the way through his career and is reflected in the work he’s done on TDSF, for IReeN and at consultation panels.

He goes on to say that "the advent of faster computers, sophisticated payroll and HR systems allowing direct data input and information access means that payroll professionals’ lives have changed significantly.

"We still need to understand the full terms and conditions of service and the legislation but now we aren’t high end data entry clerks and now adding value in an organisation. Yes, of course there’s still transactional processing but its now very different."

Why regular bulletins are so important

As for the profession Martyn’s concerns are that ‘some of the professional bodies have lost their way a bit. They are so commercial now that they don’t understand the real needs and wants of the profession.

That’s why I spent so much time researching and curating the IReeN updates so that I can pass knowledge and information on to the members as well as share best practice and act as a bridge with HMRC when there have been significant issues.

The Greater Manchester Payroll Association and the ones that have subsequently been set up in north Wales and Lancashire have been a great way to share best practice and stop others reinventing the wheel on communication of certain messages to employees and so on.’

‘I approached each bulleting thinking about the things that I would want to know because if I need it then I know that others will need it too. In Payroll we need as much advanced notice as possible as it can have so many implications, processes, procedures, direct impact on employees and or cost. We all need a crystal ball on our desks.’

Full and clear information for all

"One of the most disappointing things to me was when the notes for payroll software developers were ceased by HMRC. These were like a bible of information for all payroll professionals. And we’ve tried to fill this gap with the IReeN bulletin.’

"The trouble with many of the guidance releases from HMRC is that they aren’t prescriptive enough which leaves them open to interpretation or even misinterpretation by developers (employers and agents).

"The results are that the calculations aren’t exactly the same, the way data is held and reported may be different, and when further changes come along it’s compounded. Black and white guidance with no grey areas can only mean success for all of us including HMRC and so on."

If I had a magic wand

• ‘That the government would allow HMRC, DWP etc. to consult properly before introducing stupid things. The Chancellor and ministers need a wake up call, it’s all about what they have to deliver and hang the consequences. Just shooting from the hip without understanding the full picture. And its not just about it being tough for employers very often HMRC and their other colleagues are just told what to do and do it quickly and very cheaply.

• ‘All payroll managers would realise that they can’t operate wearing blinkers and they realise and they have to be proactive both in helping the business they work in and knowing about changes way in advance and then planning for them.’

• ‘HMRC would reintroduce the full notes for payroll software developers.’

• ‘HMRC have a better retention policy for key people. Something has to happen with the career structure as the turn over of people is too high and it means that not only is knowledge lost but so is precious time as people get up to speed.

“I approached each bulletin thinking about the things that I would want to know because if I need it then I know that others will need it too. In Payroll we need as much advanced notice as possible as it can have so many implications.”

What have I loved?

"Over the years I’ve met people that I worked with or people I’ve trained tutored and am pleased to learn that have they have moved forward in their careers often being very proactive and forward thinkers. If I’ve helped in the smallest of ways with this then it’s a good thing.

"The teamwork in all the departments I’ve been in has been great. We always pulled together, sometimes even working through the night, to make sure that deadlines have been met and people paid. It’s very much that old adage of reaping what you sow.

"Everywhere I’ve worked my aim has been to give the team as much support as possible not just in the role but their career, find the most efficient ways possible to do things and make improvements. The constant change in payroll has given plenty of opportunity to do that.

"And knowing that we’ve always done our absolute best to pay everyone what they are due and on time. It’s not just part of the job, it’s the job and unless you do that you might as well go home.’

Just in case you didn’t know Martyn has been influential in changes to legislation and process and lobbying over the years and this includes:

• Electronic P45s

• Good Friday agreement – implications where Good Friday is 5th April

• RTI

• Statutory payments

• HMRC’s communication with and guidance for employers

So we have a lot to thank him for, happy retirement Martyn.