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With PAYE undergoing its biggest revolution since its introduction in 1944, the market for payroll professionals has got noticeably busier over the past 12 months.

From April 2012, employers must submit their payroll data online to HM Revenue & Customs every time their employees are paid under the Real Time Information (RTI) initiative. Previously they just provided it once after the end of the tax year. On top of this, the rollout of pension auto–enrolment is adding to payroll teams’ responsibilities.

With workloads set to increase, employers are naturally looking to expand their payroll teams and hire more senior people to work within them. Good payroll candidates were in demand in 2012 and will be even more sought after in 2013. And employers are prepared to pay a premium to secure the right person. As a result, candidates who move jobs can get substantial pay rises. The surge in demand has prompted candidates who have sat tight in their organisations until now to start looking around for opportunities, creating further movement in the market.

Candidates who hold a qualification from the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP) have a head start in the marketplace. Employers believe CIPP–qualified or part–qualified candidates have the proof to back up the claims made on their CVs. They also benefit from a free advice line provided by the CIPP.

 Give yourself an edge by downloading our full Accountancy & Finance Salary Guide for 2013 including in-depth tables of data and analysis.

Personality is a key factor that helps to set good candidates apart from the rest. As the payroll profession becomes more demanding, employers expect candidates to be hardworking, demonstrate a ‘can–do attitude’ and show a willingness to take on projects. At interview, they also look for a steady career history. Candidates who have project payroll experience or strategic experience, such as being involved in the automation of a process, are particularly attractive. An ability to interact with other functions such as finance and HR is essential as organisations become increasingly more integrated.

Typically there are myriad reasons why payroll staff will look to move on. They may seek career progression, a pay rise, to work in a larger or smaller organisation, or to cut down on their travel. But there is a growing number of payroll managers who want to move because they feel their organisation is not taking RTI seriously enough. This is a serious risk that CFOs and HR departments need to manage since the introduction of RTI means that they need their payroll people like never before. The next couple of years could be challenging so they should support their payroll teams and bring in temporary workers if necessary.
View this year's Accountancy & Finance Salary Guide.