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Shaping Future Payroll Specialists with Jo Marshall

Tiffany Appleby
Tiffany Appleby
Jan 25, 2024 3 mins

There are almost 30 million payrolled employees in the UK alone. For each employee, there’s a payroll professional calculating their payroll on a regular basis. And behind each payroll professional is someone else who trained them how to do their job.

Recently, Melanie Pizzey and I had a conversation with Jo Marshall, a UK-based trainer and consultant for payroll. Jo is passionate about giving back what she has learned over her career and training the next generation of payroll specialists in the core skills of the role. 

Our talk covered several topics, including:

  • Jo’s Career in Payroll
  • Complexities that go into Payroll
  • Payroll’s Impact on Employees
  • The Payroll Apprenticeship Scheme

Jo’s Career in Payroll

Jo Marshall has worked in payroll for over 20 years. Over the course of her career, she has worked her way through the ranks, starting out as a receptionist, where part of her job was to help the legal cashier. The head of the department was the first person who showed Jo the basics of payroll, calculation tables and more.

Later on, Jo became a legal cashier herself, working for two different law firms, before eventually working with a software developer for over a decade. Their product was an HR and payroll solution and Jo’s experience proved to be invaluable as she possessed a thorough, real-world understanding of the fundamentals of payroll, enabling her to advise how the software should function to handle each factor of payroll.

Complexities of Payroll

To an end user of a piece of payroll software, the program is a bit like a magic wand. It takes in some information and returns the amounts that go to a paycheck and withholding.

But it takes a payroll professional to really understand what’s going on behind the scenes. That’s why, no matter how effective payroll software gets, there will always be a need for more payroll professionals.

check with a magnifying glass on a caution sign

There are many factors that go into calculating a payroll, such as tax rates and overtime. But those factors also vary across time and space. In the UK alone, there are different regulations in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. And over time, new laws are passed and old laws are reinterpreted.

None of this can be seen from the perspective of a typical employee who simply receives a paycheck. And, to an extent, that is how it should be—they should be focused on their own role. 

But it does mean that there is a lot that payroll specialists need to master in order to do their job and that they need thorough training in the complexities of payroll calculation. Programs like the Apprenticeship Scheme can go a long way in closing the gap.

Payroll’s Impact on Employees

Jo, Melanie and I discussed the critical role payroll plays in ensuring accurate pay for employee satisfaction and retention. While our jobs bring us a sense of purpose and fulfillment, the primary reason we all show up to work is to get paid. When payment goes wrong, it can leave employees feeling undervalued. Even after just a couple of incorrect payments, many people will start looking for a different job.

map of world with monitor in the middle handling the payroll system to employees worldwide

Unfortunately, payroll is often unnoticed when it runs smoothly and correctly. But it becomes spotlighted during errors, and people can get very upset. The payroll department, however, is always on the side of the employees, because a majority of their job is to ensure employees are satisfied that they have been paid accurately and on time.

The Payroll Apprenticeship Scheme

Jo decided to shift to freelancing seven years ago and now focuses on consulting, training and sharing her expertise and knowledge with payroll professionals across the UK and beyond. She is giving back what she has learned to the next generation of payroll specialists.

For Jo, a big part of giving back involves the payroll apprenticeship scheme, a major passion of hers. This is an 18-month course that covers the foundation behind payroll in 31 modules: tax and national insurance, court order, student loans, pensions and more.

computer monitor with a person teaching a payroll education online

This program is designed for people of any age, not just for individuals recently out of school. It provides thorough qualifications in payroll and a better understanding, for example, of what payroll software should be doing.

The UK government helps make this training more widely available. Companies that have an annual pay bill of over 3 million pounds have to pay a .5% Apprenticeship Levy each month. But if they pay into the levy, then it only costs 500 pounds for the 18-month payroll course. Those who complete the program are assessed through the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP).

Although the payroll apprenticeship scheme is currently only available in England, Jo believes it would be beneficial to the payroll profession to have similar programs elsewhere as well.

Listen to More on Our Podcast

Interested in these ideas and in all else payroll? Melanie and I hold a regular podcast, Humans of Payroll, where we discuss payroll topics with an industry insider.

In our most recent episode, we talked with Jo Marshall about everything above and more.

Check out the episode here.