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Duties of a Payroll Clerk

by Jan White

Payroll clerks are best known for preparing and distributing paychecks to a company's employees, but they do much more than that. A payroll clerk is commonly involved not only in ensuring that employees receive their paychecks on time and in the right amount, he also plays an important part in other duties, such as processing new hires and terminations, and managing employee benefits.

Record-keeping and Payroll Processing

The primary responsibilities of the payroll clerk are keeping and tabulating records of employees' work hours so that payroll can be processed correctly and on time. He verifies employees' time sheets or time cards to make sure they are accurate, and enters the information into a payroll record-keeping system using specialized computer software or online payroll services. Prior to each pay day, he will then verify that the total payroll hours and withholdings for taxes and benefits for the entire company are accurate in the payroll system before generating paychecks or automatic payroll deposits. On pay day, the payroll clerk may distribute paper paychecks and earnings statements to employees. Payroll clerks must work in a timely way, immediately recording changes to an employee's employment or pay status, tax deductions and witholdings. They must be detail-oriented, preparing accurate summary reports for each pay period and on quarterly and yearly bases. Generally, they will use a computerized system, so the calculations themselves will be generated by the software. However, clerks must know how to operate the software and how to verify the totals for accuracy and reasonableness.

Hires and Terminations

Payroll clerks often are responsible for processing the paperwork of new employees, including W-4 forms and automatic payroll deduction forms. They must ensure that the first paychecks of new hires are processed correctly and in the form specified by the employee, be it by automatic bank deposit or paper paycheck. A payroll clerk may verify the new employee's past employment to ensure that the employee has represented herself honestly during the job application process. When an employee leaves, the payroll clerk updates payroll records accordingly and, depending on the situation, may cut a final check for the employee's last day of work.

Benefits Administration

Keeping track of employees' vacation, sick and other leave time is also the responsibility of the payroll clerk. They maintain this information using an online payroll service or computer software, which is often part of the regular payroll processing system. Depending on the size of the company, the payroll clerk may also be responsible for explaining these and other benefits programs, such as health insurance, to new employees and enrolling them in these programs.

Other Duties

Payroll clerks are the most involved, of all employees, in recording and processing payroll, so they must keep their supervisors and management informed of any payroll problems. They must also stay abreast of changes in tax laws and update the payroll processing system accordingly. Payroll clerks should be proficient using spreadsheet software such as Excel and comfortable, in general, with computers and automated systems. Companies may subscribe to an outside payroll service, and the payroll clerk uses the service's specialized software; she must be comfortable and confident in learning new software.

About the Author

Since 1995, Jan White has written instructional pieces in the areas of career development, higher education, and accounting and finance. She utilizes her professional expertise as a career counselor in writing and editing career-related articles online. She has a master's degree in career development from JFK University and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Concordia College.

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