No employee wants to receive their salaries late. Not only does it have downstream impacts on their finances and personal budgeting, it also creates an unhappy and disengaged workplace culture. One instance of late salary payment can cause employees to undermine the reliability of their organisation’s payroll, question their organisation’s financial stability and create a sense of distrust in the long run.
Is there an existing law on salary payments?
Under the Employment Act in Singapore, organisations are mandated to pay their employees’ salaries at least once a month and within 7days after the end of the salary period. Organisations can also pay employees their salaries at shorter intervals such as twice a month or weekly, depending on the nature of work and on a mutually agreed basis with the employee.
However, there are exceptions in terms of overtime, resignation without notice period and other situations.
For overtime pay, it must be paid out to employees within 14 days after the end of the salary period.
What should employees do when they receive the salary payments late?
In case of late payment, employees should check directly with the organisation to understand the situation and if regular salary payments can be expected.
If the organisation is unable to pay employees on time, affected employees will need to first file a claim with the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM). Alternatively they can seek assistance with their respective trade union if they are a member before the case can be heard with TADM.
Should there be an unfortunate case in which the late salary payment case cannot be resolved through mediation, TADM will then proceed to issue a claim referral certificate. At this stage, the case will be referred to the Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT). The affected employee will then have to file the claim directly with the ECT within 4 weeks after the claim referral certificate was issued.
What are the implications of late salary payments
Late salary payments is an offence under the Employment Act in Singapore. Employers who are found guilty of paying their employees late may risk a fine of SGD3,000 to SGD15,000, jailed for 6 months, or both, if they are a first time offender. For repeat offenders, the penalties are usually doubled.
How can my organisation avoid late salary payments?
Late salary payments is a situation that neither employers nor employees want to be caught in. Here are some tips to avoid falling into the trap of not paying employees on time.
Tracking your cash flow
Monitoring cash flow is crucial to understand the financial health of the business. It helps to provide an idea on the incoming and outgoing cash flow, and whether there are sufficient funds to pay employees. Accurate tracking of the organisation’s cash flow can also help to identify areas, such as assets or liabilities, that may be contributing to a negative cash flow. Concurrently, senior management can also utilise cash flow tracking to monitor employees’ performance and productivity levels. This helps to facilitate human capital management, whereby senior leaders may not want to increase employee headcount if business outputs are not justified with the increase in headcount or employee salaries.
Communicate early to your employees
If there is a strong business case to pay employees their salaries late, it is best to communicate it to employees as soon as possible. This is to provide employees with ample time to make necessary arrangements for their personal finances, such as monthly bills, rent, children’s allowances or household expenses. When communicating with employees, it is best to be upfront and transparent. State the reason behind the delayed salary payments, steps that the organisation is taking to address and rectify the issue, and the expected salary disbursement date. This helps to reassure disgruntled employees that the organisation still has the employees’ interest at heart.
Review payroll processes periodically
The key step to prevent late salary payments is to take measures to continuously improve existing payroll processes. This can be done by reviewing internal processes from time to time. Periodic payroll process reviews help to identify bottlenecks within the existing operating process. If cash flow was the main problem, take measures to mitigate the organisation’s short-time and long-term financial strategy. If payroll calculations errors resulted in delayed salary payments, consider investing in a payroll software to automate the calculation process or outsource to a third-party vendor. By resolving issues or bottlenecks periodically, this helps to minimise the chances of delays to payroll processing.
Engage a payroll partner
The easiest way to prevent late salary disbursements is to outsource the entire payroll or parts of the payroll process to a payroll partner. A reliable payroll partner will be able to leverage on their expertise to ensure timely and accurate payroll. Given the ever-changing labour laws and legislations, an external payroll partner will be able to keep up with the ongoing changes. This reduces the likelihood of payroll errors, and ensures adherence to payroll processing timelines.
Managing payroll with cloud-based payroll software
Businesses have moved towards a remote-working arrangement during the pandemic. This means that running payroll on on-premise payroll software becomes extremely challenging and complex. The first limitation is the lack of accessibility. The payroll staff are unable to physically go back to office to use the organisation’s payroll software. The second limitation is data security. Payroll contains sensitive and confidential information. Managing payroll outside of the organisation’s IT systems and servers exposes the data to potential security breaches and hackers.
The pandemic has highlighted an imperative need for advanced payroll systems. They are accessible to employees regardless of location or geographies. Cloud-based payroll software addresses those limitations by allowing remote access to payroll data, eliminating the need for payroll staff to be physically present in the office while ensuring that the necessary data security controls are in place. Most cloud-based payroll software are also able to integrate other HR functions. For example, time-tracking and tax filing as well as regular software updates to ensure compliance with changes in employment laws. This allows organisations to streamline standalone HR processes onto a unified HR platform, ensuring accurate and compliant payroll despite remote work arrangements.
Robust remote data security
Businesses are gradually adapt to the new norm of hybrid working. Data security within payroll software becomes an increasingly critical focal point for organisations today. According to Shred-It’s 2018 State of the Industry report, they found that more than 80% of C-suites in North America believe that the risk of a data breach is higher when employees work remotely. Organisations are moving towards adopting a hybrid work arrangement. Employees are allowed to work a certain number of days remotely and the rest of the days in office. This means having to overhaul internal security controls to strengthen data procedures. Particularly in the case of managing payroll processing. Payroll staff have to handle sensitive and confidential payroll and employee records. It is imperative to introduce new data security protocols as well as educate employees on data security procedures.
Some of the new data security controls that organisations can put in place include multi-factor authentication (MFA). This requires the user to go through a two or more steps verification process. Then only they are able to access the payroll system. Other controls could include introducing Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Instead of using unsecured WiFi networks to access payroll if it happens to be a cloud-based payroll platform. Besides implementing new data security protocols, payroll staff should also be trained on the internal data security procedures. They are well-equipped with the necessary knowledge to handle potential payroll data breaches.
Integration of payroll system with HRMS
The shift towards hybrid in-office and remote working stresses the need for integration of payroll software with other HR functions. Such as employee attendance, leave application, and expenses management. Organisations can consider platforms such as Human Resource Management System (HRMS) that supports the full spectrum of payroll functions.
Remote working means that there are certains limitations if HR functions were executed on individual software or platforms. This could include delayed payroll processing times and inaccurate employee records. There is also failure to accurately capture employees’ reimbursement, delayed expenses reimbursement. It is useful to integrate payroll with the organisation’s human capital management system (HCMS) or HRMS. This facilitates accurate tracking and record-keeping of employees’ details and payroll information. This also means that salary items such as leave applications, expenses claims or allowances are automatically captured during payroll processing. The result? Minimal payroll errors, high payroll accuracy and timely salary disbursement which in turn leads to happy and engaged employees
The impact that the COVID-10 pandemic had on managing payroll is clear that traditional payroll processes will change. While it is difficult to predict what the exact changes are. Organisations need to be agile and adapt quickly to the changes. Besides automating administrative processes and leveraging on technology to streamline workflows, it is also crucial to ensure that managing payroll remains accurate and compliant at all times. Hybrid-remote working becomes the new norm, organisations have to find ways to ensure payroll remains highly efficient and cost effective.