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Simon Parsons, Director of UK Compliance Strategies at SD Worx UK, in this feature he writes about the dynamic between employee trust and payroll.

As Director of UK Compliance Strategies at SD Worx UK, I have seen many changes to payroll and construction over the past year. Disruption as a result of the pandemic has affected business stability and growth, forcing leaders to downsize by cutting staff numbers and reducing employee hours.

This lack of stability creates fresh problems for leaders, who not only face tough decisions in anticipation of potential further lockdowns and further lost revenue, but also have to deal with challenges around employee trust.

Indeed, business disruption is directly impacting employee trust. Concerns about the future of work result in uncertainty and a decreasing level of employee engagement, as it becomes guarantee job stability and security in a changing market. While tackling trade disruption externally, businesses need to be attentive internally – attuned to the growing apprehensions of staff – or face the challenge of a disengaged workforce.

The employee engagement challenge for the construction sector

Most business sectors have been largely and negatively impacted by COVID-19 – and this is reflected in morale trends. Research from SD Worx found that more than half of companies (51%) saw employee morale deteriorate; hospitality (63%), healthcare (58%), the cultural sector (67%) and education (60%) showed the worst scores in this respect. In addition, there was also 37% less recruitment of flex workers and temporary hired staff in the countries surveyed – indicating that industry confidence has taken a drastic fall.

The construction industry, like retail, hospitality, and leisure industries, has been dealt a considerable blow by restrictions and lockdowns. There has been widespread interruption to projects and a surge in redundancies, with 43% of construction businesses anticipating people cuts, as highlighted by a report from the Construction Leadership Council.

So, how can trust be rebuilt for employees in construction? One way is through payroll management, and in this article, I take you through the different steps on how payroll can prevent and rebuild a breakdown in employee trust, with specific focus on the construction industry.

Pandemic causing greatest concern amongst construction workers

The trust between employer and employees is based on the payment they receive for a day’s work, and all workers need the guarantee of steady payroll income, in order to finance bills and rent costs, so this is a must-have for employers to avoid their employees losing faith.

Upheaval through 2020 impacted projects on construction sites, and led to the roll out of furlough schemes as well as increases in reliance on the temporary workforce – increasing challenges associated with reliable payroll management.

Despite short-term implementation costs, companies who invested in workforce management systems profited from the benefits in streamlined people management. These systems not only handle the scheduling of employee timetables, but also keep track of the actual hours worked – monitoring overtime, hours clocked in and out, and sick days for thousands of workers, whether they are full-time, part-time, contractors or sub-contractors, across multiple sites.

Complying with regulations and eradicating manual systems

Handling information in a better, more efficient way decreases the time needed for administrative tasks and reduces errors. Workforce management systems can eradicate the need for manual form-filling and cross-checking – this way nothing can be misplaced or miscalculated. In addition, these workforce management systems can also provide a clear audit trail – helping businesses comply with regulations that are covered under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).

By integrating a workforce management system with payroll, it will not just ensure accuracy, but it will also allow companies to automate processes and replace paper-based systems, such as payslips, with a digital version or copy.

There are further health benefits for payroll digitalisation in the context of COVID-19. Today’s workforces are now rightfully concerned about infections spreading across the workplace. The use of a self-serve system, where workers can access their payslips on their mobile phones or other personal devices, now means project managers no longer need to travel from location to location to hand out payslips, and risk cross-contamination through physical copies of payslips.

Digital payslips help reduce human contact

Self-service systems reduce human contact and also give construction workers better control of their personal information. Workers can log in themselves through online portals and see what is happening regarding HR and payroll processes. This also prevents situations occurring where site managers are having to handle disputes over pay. There are numerous additional benefits, not least the fact that self-service systems remove the need for payroll teams to provide copies of past payslips, P45s or P60s.

Payroll departments are also no longer required to update employee details. As construction workers are then able to access their own personal data and change their information, such as their address or bank details, payroll teams can become compliant with data regulations more easily. Significantly, self-serve reduces the time taken up answering queries, given that it now means payroll teams no longer need to manually communicate data. Instead, payroll and HR data is now being inputted and checked by the employees, which also helps reduce the potential for keying in errors.

Minimising the risk of potential for error and maintain trust

There are many benefits to workforce management and self-service portals that make the lives of the payroll team easier, but the main advantage has to be the reassurance this will provide employees. It increases accuracy, reduces human contact and helps them answer any questions they have much faster.

As a result, digitalisation in payroll to improve communication and transparency with data, as well as compliance in the back office, helps maintain employee trust, and can even aid the rebuilding of it after a year of uncertainty. These solutions, through greater levels of automation and streamlined processes, will help construction companies emerge from some of their most challenging years in the best shape possible.

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