payroll

Employing staff and Coronavirus: Fairwork directions

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought with it great uncertainty and worry amongst the general population, not the least of these, employers and staff. There are many unknowns relating to how to manoeuvre in these difficult times as an employer, especially in terms of ensuring staff are treated correctly and fairly. Recently, Fairwork released some direction for employers on their website. We advise you read the bulk of the details on their page yourself but we do provide a “taste” of the information provided below.


My employee (or his family member) has Coronavirus. What now?

You must direct the employee not to come to work and to only return when s/he has been given medical clearance. If the employee is part or full time, s/he will be able to take paid personal/carers leave. Casual workers will need to take unpaid leave given they do not receive leave entitlements. Workers refusing to use their leave entitlements are not required to be paid. You can ask the employee for evidence of the illness or emergency i.e. doctor’s certificate if required.

My employee wants to stay home to avoid contact with others.

In this case, you need to discuss this with the staff member and come to an agreement that suits you both. If working from home is an option and your staff member agrees to do so, then make arrangements together to ensure this can occur easily and smoothly. If the employee cannot work from home, then you must decide if paid or unpaid leave will be provided. Where an employee refuses to take paid leave (where it is available), then that employee cannot be paid.

I want to tell my employee/s to stay home.

From Fairwork: ” Under workplace health and safety laws, employers must ensure the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace as far as is reasonably practicable. ” If you believe that it would be best to instruct your staff to stay home due to possible risks from COVID-19, then you certainly can do so. You can organise a “work-from-home” scenario where possible or if not possible, you can direct staff to remain off site but you must be aware as per Fairwork ” where an employer directs a full-time or part-time employee not to work due to workplace health and safety risks but the employee is ready, willing and able to work, the employee is generally entitled to be paid while the direction applies”, and also “standing down employees without pay is not generally available due to a deterioration of business conditions or because an employee has the coronavirus.”

I want to direct staff not to travel.

While you can direct your employees not to travel for work-related events, meetings etc because you want to reduce the risks associated with COVID-19 at your workplace, you cannot ask them to cancel personal travel/trips.


So, in summary, you need to ensure your workplace is safe and you can do this by keeping unwell employees at home and/or all staff at home if required. If your business is structured in such a way that working from home is possible, then certainly bring that to the table and discuss with staff how best to handle that scenario. Part and full time staff should take personal leave if affected by the virus or unpaid leave if they prefer. Similarly, if staff unaffected by COVID-19 request to remain at home and also cannot work from home, they must opt to take annual or unpaid leave. If you direct staff to stay home and there isn’t any evidence that they have been affected by COVID-19, that is, they are well and able to work, then you must continue to pay them as normal. To read the full list of instructions provided by Fairwork, download their factsheet below.

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How to set up STP in your accounting software – part 3 – Saasu

If you’re a small employer with 19 employees or less, you had until 30 September 2019 to connect your accounting software to the ATO for Single Touch Payroll (STP) purposes. If you haven’t yet done so because you simply don’t know how to do it, then this blog is for you! This is a four-part series and we began the series by looking at STP and Xero software and MYOB. Today we will review STP and Saasu. In the final part of this series, we will also cover QuickBooks Online.


Connecting your Saasu file for STP – or perhaps not!!

Saasu’s set up process for STP is probably the easiest of all the accounting software because there isn’t one – that’s right, you read right – there isn’t one! As per Saasu.com“There are no special settings that you need to enable STP in Saasu. It will be available on all files and the authentication with the ATO is done behind the scenes.”

In order to get ready for STP, all Saasu ask of you is that you review your current payroll and company set up and ensure the following is in place:

  • Confirm employee information is accurate – including name, address (including postcode), main phone number (including area code and no spaces), date of birth, and gender, on the Employee Details page (View > Employees > click ‘View or Edit Employee Details’ icon)
  • Confirm that your ABN or Withholding Provider Number (WPN), address (including postcode and state is in short form (i.e VIC, QLD etc) , and phone number (including area code and no spaces) is entered on the File Identity page (cog icon > Settings for this file > File Identity)
  • Check your payroll processes and ensure your pay items are correct and you are paying staff properly. Especially check pay items like allowances and deductions.
  • You must be using the payroll function in Saasu rather than entering payroll information via journal otherwise STP reporting will not work.

Once you have reviewed the above and are satisfied that your set up is adequate, then you are ready to report your first payrun to the ATO via STP – easy huh!

Reporting your payrun to the ATO

This following is taken from the Saasu website.

  1. Process your regular pay run
  2. Click on Reports > Single Touch Payroll
  3. Click on the cog icon, select Regular Pay Event, specify the report settings and click Run
  4. The data that matches your settings will be displayed and can be checked for accuracy
  5. Ensure that pays to be submitted are ticked (pay runs will be pre-ticked and can’t be modified), then click the Upload icon
  6. Before the report is submitted to the ATO you will need to authorise the submission by agreeing to “Sign declaration with my email address” (this is the email address you are signed into Saasu with) and click Submit
  7. The ATO has a standard response time of up to 72 hours before the upload is accepted and successful. At times, this may be quicker and could be as little as 10 minutes. You can move away from this screen and continue to work on other things in Saasu while the STP report is being processed.

Remember to come back to the Single Touch Payroll Report screen (Reports > Single Touch Payroll) about 10-15mins after you have submitted a regular Pay Event. This is to ensure the submission has been accepted by the ATO, and there are no errors that need further attention. If you haven’t moved away from this screen then you may need to refresh your browser to see the updated information.

Note: Once a Pay Event has been submitted to the ATO, you cannot submit any further Pay Events until the previous submission has been accepted or, if rejected, the submission result actioned.


So there you have it – there isn’t really any major set up of STP for Saasu which makes it very easy for users to comply with STP requirements. I must say I am a fan of this scenario given that other software do involve many more steps to enable STP connection which can be frustrating for users. Keep it simple stupid I say! In our final blog in this series, we will look at how to connect STP in Quickbooks Online.

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Accessorial Liability: when to stay and when to run…


An accessory to a crime is a person who participates knowingly and voluntarily in the commission of a crime. An accessory can be categorised as before or after the fact (the commission of the crime).   They need not be actually present at the scene of the crime in order to be held liable. 

Legalmatch.com

In the bookkeeping world there is much chatter about “accessorial liability” especially in relation to those providing payroll services for clients. So what is this about and what does it mean? Basically, as per the above quote, if you are involved in contravening the Fair Work Act 2009 and are knowingly doing so, then, if investigated by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), you could be classified as an accessory to the contravention and be prosecuted accordingly. In simple speak, if you are involved in performing payroll tasks for a client (or your employer) and you know that something is being done illegally or incorrectly in relation to the payroll and you do not do anything to rectify it, you have just made yourself an accessory. The FWO are clear about this and there are no if, buts or maybes. No excuses accepted. So there are 3 aspects to accessorial liability – being involved, knowing it’s happening and doing nothing to stop it. Is this scary for bookkeepers? You bet your life it is!


Should I stay or should I go now?

So if you’re a bookkeeper reading this and you’re not already scared about your involvement in your clients’ payroll, then you should be! In general you do your best and bring your expertise and knowledge to the task and hope that all will be well. But is that enough? Perhaps not it seems. The FWO will have us believe we need to do more in order to avoid becoming an accessory to payroll contraventions. So what can you do if you suspect something is out of kilter with a client’s payroll? Athena Koelmeyer from Workplace Law makes the following suggestions:

  • Arrange for a payroll audit to be performed by a professional HR service. This will uncover any anomalies and errors being made and assistance will be provided to rectify them.
  • Make sure that appropriate processes are in place and are being followed correctly. These processes should include:
    • ensuring employers (your clients) are across their obligations under the Fair Work Act 2009, modern awards and any record-keeping obligations
    • ensuring employees are properly classified under their relevant award
    • ensuring employees pays are correctly in terms of minimum rates of pay, allowances, penalties and loadings
    • ensuring all payroll records are compliant and correct
    • keeping up to date with changes to modern awards, especially pay rates, allowances, loadings, penalty rates etc.
    • conducting regular audits of your payroll set up, especially when using generic software
  • If you discover any anomalies with your client’s payroll, communicate this immediately with the client and ensure that they rectify the situation. Keep written records of the steps that were taken to repair the issue/s. If neither you or your client can rectify the issues, seek professional advice and assistance. Do not ignore the situation.

The above is great advice is should be followed if you are going to provide a best-practice service to your client. As bookkeepers, however, we all know that in reality, making clients cross the t’s and dot the i’s is not as easy as it sounds. Some clients take your advice on board and some don’t for whatever reason. So what is Athena’s advice if you find yourself working with a client who is openly flaunting Fair Work laws and who refuses to make any improvements? Basically her advice is to

RUN FORREST, RUN!

Athena says you always have to come back to the accessorial liability provisions under section 550 of the Fair Work Act when making your decision about whether to persist or leave. She says that where you are involved (processing payroll) AND you know that payroll processes as above are not sufficient, AND you don’t do anything about it (even if you tried to), you will be seen as as accessory in the event of prosecution. While this is not the forum to go into possible charges and legal consequences of said prosecution, I’m sure you’ll agree that you do not want to go there! Athena recommends that you should terminate your engagement with these types of clients immediately, no questions asked and just walk away. Before walking away, always put your concerns and any steps taken to rectify the situation in writing to the client and retain this as your record in the event that you are pursued by the FWO. She also advises that you should report non-compliant clients to the FWO as an extra means of protecting yourself. Athena says, and I quote:

If a payroll provider makes a client aware that their systems are not compliant, refuses to participate in the contravening conduct and terminates the relationship with them, then the payroll provider has done all that they can do to make the client aware of their non-compliance and not participate in any contraventions.

Payroll HQ

In my opinion, there isn’t any job worth doing where you are putting yourself at risk of litigation and possible jail-time. If you are reading this and you think you may be at risk, then get some advice from a trusted advisor and/or your bookkeeping association. If you are sure you are at risk, then take Athena’s advice and run, run, run and don’t look back!

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How to get started with Single Touch Payroll

As mentioned in our last blog, smaller employers with less than 19 employees will need to start reporting their payroll data via Single Touch Payroll by 1 July 2019. That’s not far away and if this affects you, you need to start getting ready now! Don’t panic though, we are here to help and to that end, we have prepared a “get started with STP” checklist to assist you.

Before sharing our checklist with you, just a little bit of background for those in the “I don’t know anything about STP” camp…

What is STP?

STP is a reporting change regarding your payroll. Instead of reporting your payroll data once to the ATO at the end of the financial year, you will report each pay run or “payroll event” (as it is now called) to the ATO at the time it is processed. The reporting will be done via your accounting software. Your payroll processes do not need to change – the only change is that your payroll information will be reported more often to the ATO.

Why STP?

The ATO are trying to streamline the processes for employers and employees regarding all things payroll, from providing employers with current tax file number information and super details of new employees, to allowing employees to see their tax and super information in real time. Some benefits of STP can include:

  • No more payment summaries (or “income statements” as they now called). Employers will no longer need to provide employees with payment summaries as they will now access them via their myGov accounts instead, once the final pay event of the financial year is sent to the ATO via STP.
  • No more PSAR’s – employers will no longer need to provide the ATO with a payment summary annual report.
  • Employees can see at any time, their year-to-date payments from employers, superannuation paid, access their payment summaries and also access their Notice of Assessment once their tax return is completed. They will be able to access all of this information via their myGov accounts.
  • Employers will be able to offer online commencement forms to new employees including the TFN declaration, Superannuation Choice form and Medicare levy variation declaration form. This will all be available via myGov and will be provided to both the employer and the employee making onboarding a new employee a more streamlined process and helping to delays and errors.

Getting started with STP Checklist

The first thing to know about STP is that nothing really changes for you. You will continue to process your payroll as you always have except that at the end of each pay run, you will click a button in your accounting software and send the payroll data to the ATO. Of course, before you can do this, you need to set up STP in your software and ensure that the ATO knows about it! Below is a list of items you need to do in order to get ready for STP.

  1. Decide when you want to start reporting via STP. You can begin right now if you wish, meaning your 2018-19 FY year-to-date payroll data will be sent to the ATO. You can wait until the official start date i.e. July 1 2019 or you can opt in some time between July 2019 and September 30 2019 as the ATO are allowing smaller employers to delay STP until the end of the first quarter in the 2019-20 FY (but no later).
  2. Employees and myGov accounts. In the near future, all communications from government departments including the ATO, will only be available via a myGov account. You need to tell your employees to register for a myGov account now. Here is a link you can share with employees from the ATO about STP and how it relates to them. You can also provide them with this link to assist them to register for a myGov account https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/online-help/create-mygov-account
  3. Perform a payroll health check. The ATO advise that it is good practice to review all payroll items and employee setups etc. before starting to report via STP to ensure that payroll data reported is accurate and correct. We think this is a good idea too. Check things like allowances, superannuation rate, salary sacrifice, deductions, PAYG withholding rate, employees’ contact details, using correct award, agreement and/or contract etc.
  4. Connecting your software to the ATO for STP. In order to lodge payroll data via STP, firstly, you need to notify the ATO of the special software ID (SID) number from your accounting software. There are several ways to do this. If you have access to your business portal, you will notify via Access Manager. If you have your ABN connected to your myGov account, you can notify via myGov. If you don’t have either of those options available, you can call the ATO on 1300 85 22 32 and notify over the phone. Note, this is an important step and if not done, you will not be able to send your STP report to the ATO. See more information here. Once you have notified the ATO re the SID, you are ready to set up STP in your software and start reporting. Below are some links re to how to set up STP in each of the more common accounting software packages to get you started:

Need more help?

Further information or reading. If you would like further information or would like to do some reading about STP, here are some links which may assist you:

We can help – give us a call..

We realise that this is a lot to take in and that you will probably have questions or need assistance with set up. Please feel free to contact us to make an appointment to discuss your needs etc. We’d be happy to assist.


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Long Service Leave changes for Victoria November 2018

The new Long Service Leave Act 2018 for Victoria was activated on 1st November 2018. Employees in Victoria who were previously covered by the Long Service Leave Act 1992, can now enjoy several improvements regarding this leave entitlement. These improvements are discussed in this blog.

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Quick-start guide for new employers

So you’re going to start employing staff. That’s great, this usually means your small business is booming, so well done to you! Before you don your employer’s hat however, you need to make sure that you have all of your ducks in a row. There are quite a few things you need to do so to that end, we have created a quick-start guide for new employers. Our guide will tell you what you need to know, supply crucial documents and provide links to important information. Pop this blog link in your favourites for quick access as you will find it useful each time you on-board a new staff member.

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What you need to know about Single Touch Payroll

The Government are starting to push through some rather drastic measures in regards to how small business reports to the Australian Tax Office (ATO). In my last blog, I wrote about one of those new measures, Simpler BAS – a new way to report GST for SME’s. In today’s blog, I will introduce another new reporting method called “Single Touch Payroll” (STP). As the name suggests, STP will affect business owners who are also employers. Read on to find out some facts if this affects you.

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10 facts about public holidays that can affect your payroll

Any employer (and bookkeeper) will tell you that processing payroll is a complicated task. It’s subject to many variances brought on by both individual employee requirements and state-based payroll laws. Something else that can affect payroll is public holidays and as Easter is fast approaching, we thought it timely to bring this topic to the fore. Here are 10 facts about public holidays that can impact your payroll:

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What information must be on a payslip?

If you’re an employer, you’re probably across how payslips work right? For instance, you already know that you must give employees payslips within 24 hours of paying them and that you can provide payslips in electronic or hard copy format. So that’s it right? That’s all you need to know – well, not exactly! Did you know that Fair Work has specific requirements in terms of what information should be reported on a payslip? Do you know if your payslips are compliant? Not sure? Here is a list of items that you must include on payslips (followed by some items that don’t have to be included, but should be!)

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Employers’ Toolbox (free download)

Are you a new employer? Do you need help with getting started? Do you know what your employer obligations involve? Being an employer is a huge responsibility and brings with it added compliance to which you must adhere if you want to get it right. To assist you in this task, we have created the “Employers’ Toolbox”, a simple guide to getting started including all of the resources you will need along the way.

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