Payroll Administrator

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A challenging role for the numerically minded and a vital role within any organisation, a Payroll Administrator makes sure that employers are paid the right amount at the right time.

All organisations, however small or large, need to administer employees’ salaries. Payroll administration could be performed in-house, using specialist software within its own accounts team, or outsourced to a company providing payroll services.

Payroll administrators handle large quantities of money on a daily basis and are required to make calculations and process payments within strict deadlines. It can be a challenging and demanding role but delivering accurate and regular pay packets to employees can be fulfilling too!


Salaries are largely dependent on location, experience and qualifications. However, a Junior Payroll Administrator could expect to earn in the region of £13,000 to £18,000 a year. Promotion to a supervisory role could see this salary increase to £20,000 to £25,000. Managerial earnings can reach £40,000.


  • Check hours on employee timesheets.
  • Calculate accurate wages, including any bonuses, salary increases or overtime.
  • Calculate any tax or national insurance deductions and pensions contributions.
  • Calculate statutory payments, such as maternity, paternity and sick leave.
  • Calculate and process accurate payments to employees by cash, cheque or electronic transfer, ensuring strict deadlines are met.
  • Issue relevant tax forms.
  • Process new documentation for starters and leavers.
  • Handle and respond to discrepancies and queries relating to payroll.
  • Provide assistance to Human Resources team if required.
  • Other ad hoc duties, such as filing and photocopying, should be expected.


Previous experience is not essential although you will normally be expected to meet the following requirements:

  • GCSE Maths and English (Grade C or above).
  • Previous experience which demonstrates numeracy and literacy skills.
  • Relevant higher qualifications (in Book-keeping, for example) are advantageous.
  • Basic computer skills in Word and Excel with experience using spreadsheets and databases.
  • Eligibility to work in the UK.


Payroll Administrators will need to demonstrate the following skills:

  • Excellent numeracy and literacy skills.
  • Good timekeeping and an ability to meet strict deadlines.
  • Organised, logical and methodical approach.
  • Ability to remain calm under pressure.
  • Flexibility. Busy periods may require longer working hours.
  • A keen eye for detail and accuracy.
  • Strong communication skills.
  • Ability to use own initiative.
  • Ability to work well within a team.
  • Knowledge of PAYE is advantageous.
  • Understanding of ongoing legislative changes which affect payroll.
  • Experience using computerised payroll software, such as Pegasus, can be beneficial.
  • Discretion! Administrators handle confidential and highly sensitive information.

Working Conditions

Payroll administrators are office based and work a normal 35 – 37 hour week, Monday to Friday. Busy periods may require extra hours to ensure deadlines are met. An average day will involve calculating figures, using the computer and responding to telephone queries relating to payroll.

Recruitment agencies should be able to provide information about part-time and temporary opportunities.

There are approximately 56,000 employees working in payroll across the UK.


Previous experience is not essential to become a Payroll Administrator, although candidates seeking employment need to demonstrate the key skills required. Additional training for junior entrants will normally take place in the workplace.

Some companies offer apprenticeship schemes which enable its staff to learn and earn at the same time. Employees will be provided with on the job training at work and undertake off the job training at college. Apprenticeships usually take between one to two years for completion.

Further information is available at


Payroll Administrators can work in a large, small, public or private sector organisation. Employment opportunities are also available within specialist companies providing payroll services.

Payrecruit is the preferred supplier to the Institute of Payroll Professionals (IPP) and provides temporary, permanent and interim recruitment solutions across the UK. The Association of Accounting Technicians is also a useful source for job seekers and finders, offering courses and guidelines for prospective payroll employees.

Local Jobcentres will provide information on vacancies in your area and, for opportunities within the local authority, visit Specialist publications, such as Payroll World and Personnel Today, also advertise payroll vacancies across England.

Career progression

After developing your knowledge as a Payroll Administrator, gaining hands-on knowledge calculating and processing payments, using payroll software and understanding relevant legislative changes, it is worth considering further qualifications. These will improve chances of promotion to a supervisory or managerial role.

Find out what internal and external courses are offered by a potential employer before joining the company.

These could include:

  • AAT NVQ Levels 2 and 3 in Payroll Administration. This is aimed at payroll employees and individuals seeking employment in payroll. The course can be completed within eight months.
  • IPP Foundation in Payroll Administration. This is a six month foundation course designed for employees with less than two years’ experience.
  • International Association of Book-keepers (IAB) Certificates in Computerised and Manual Payroll

Other courses, such as the IPP Diploma in Payroll Management and BTEC Professional Certificate in Team Management, are also available for Payroll Assistants looking to earn greater responsibility and progress into a more senior position.


Payroll Administrator

Also known as…

  • Payroll Technician
  • Payroll Clerk
  • Payroll Processor

What’s it really like?

Becky Pearson, 23, has been a Payroll Administrator for the last five years. Here she explains why she hasn’t looked back…

I became a Payroll Administrator during my gap year and was then lucky enough to combine this work with my studies throughout university. I am still working for the same company, doing a job which interests and challenges me on a daily basis.

Working for a recruitment firm, I am responsible for the accurate and timely payment of around 50 employees on temporary assignments. This involves chasing up and checking timesheets on a weekly basis to ensure that I meet the strict deadlines to process wages. The rates and fees may vary depending upon the candidate, the client, length of the contract and nature of the role. I also need to be aware of any changes, bonuses and deductions, such as taxes and National Insurance charges, as these need to be reflected in the final amount processed. Calculations can be complex and often performed under pressure, so it’s essential to remain cool and calm under these circumstances.

In addition to these payroll duties, I’m also responsible for invoicing clients and updating the accounts spreadsheet with weekly and monthly figures. Other than working with numbers, I am also dealing with people so strong communication skills are essential. The role requires a sound understanding of legislative changes and rules on topics such as tax exemptions, paid annual leave and National Insurance so I can respond to any payroll queries which may arise. Dealing with large quantities of money on a daily basis means that all information regarding candidates and clients is treated as confidential.

Working as a Payroll Administrator presents different challenges every day. Dealing with discrepancies on timesheets and mis-calculations draws on my problem solving skills and finding solutions gives me a real buzz! To succeed within this role, it is essential to be organised, calm under pressure and numerically minded. You also need to be prepared to learn about all aspects of payroll paperwork – from which forms need to be completed for tax-exempt students to the different codes for salary caps. Laws and rules will also change, so be prepared for this! My deadline for processing payments falls on a Monday, so this tends to be my busiest day although there may be a need for flexibility during busier periods. This is particularly true within larger organisations which handle the payroll for a larger number of employees. Working conditions will vary depending on the employer and size of the company. Be aware of how this may affect your working hours and your other responsibilities. It is also worth finding out about possible training opportunities and if there is any scope for progression during the interview process.

After gaining experience and qualifications as a Payroll Administrator, you would normally progress into a supervisory or managerial role. Alternatively, you may choose to transfer these skills within a Human Resources department. Payroll experience, including an understanding of employment contracts and finances, may provide the basic knowledge required to progress in an assistant role. Promotion into a managerial position would then involve working alongside the payroll department, confirming contracts and salaries, responding to related queries, negotiating fee agreements with recruitment agencies and interviewing potential employees.

Personally, I’m perfectly happy in my current role!

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