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Payroll Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

The daily job duties performed by payroll assistants vary based on how many employees work for the business and the complexity of the payroll itself, which can be complicated by direct deposit requests, wage garnishments, and other issues. However, these essential job tasks are generally the same in all business environments:

Assist Payroll Manager Payroll assistants provide assistance to the payroll manager in all tasks as assigned.

Enter Payroll Data into System Payroll assistants enter payroll data into digital systems to keep all payroll files up to date.

Maintain Accurate Staffing Sheets Payroll assistants maintain daily staffing sheets showing hours worked for all employees.

Create Staff Schedules Payroll assistants create work schedules for all staff members.

Process Tax Forms Payroll assistants process W-2 forms for all employees at the end of each calendar year.

Manage Payroll Tasks Payroll assistants help process wage garnishments and direct deposits for all employees as needed.

Maintain Confidentiality Payroll assistants keep all payroll information confidential, maintaining privacy for each and every employee.

Answer Questions Payroll assistants answer questions from staff and managers regarding all payroll concerns.


Payroll Assistant Skills and Qualifications

Payroll assistants use mathematics and computer skills to process payroll tasks such as filling out tax forms, tracking employee hours, and creating staff schedules. Payroll managers seek payroll assistants who have the following specific skills:
  • Computer skills - payroll assistants use computer skills to work with software programs such as Microsoft Excel and digital filing systems
  • Data entry - payroll assistants are responsible for entering information into digital filing systems, which requires good data entry skills
  • Mathematics - basic math skills are essential for payroll assistants, because finances are a key element of the job
  • Organization skills - payroll assistants must be well-organized to manage a variety of different payroll concerns for all staff members
  • Communication skills - payroll assistants work closely with payroll managers to receive instructions, and also answer questions for other managers and staff members, which both require excellent verbal communication skills
  • Multitasking - payroll assistants juggle multiple payroll concerns and manage staff schedules and payroll problems for many people at once, so employers look to fill this role with strong multitaskers
  • Time management - payroll assistants use good time management skills to meet strict deadlines

Payroll Assistant Education and Training

Most employers require payroll assistants to have a high school diploma or GED at minimum. Candidates who have an associate's degree in business, finance, or a related discipline are strongly preferred. However, some employers will hire payroll assistants on an entry-level basis and provide paid training so they can learn the functions of the job. All payroll assistants receive some on-the-job training, the length of which varies based on the company and the amount of education and experience the candidate already has. During this paid training period, payroll assistants work under close supervision from the payroll manager.

Payroll Assistant Salary and Outlook

PayScale reports that payroll assistants earn a median hourly income of $15.50. According to information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), general office clerks (who perform similar work to payroll assistants) earn a median income of $31,500 per year, or $15.41 per hour. General office clerks occupied more than 3 million jobs in 2016. The BLS estimates that jobs for these professionals will experience little to no change through the year 2026. Full-time payroll assistants typically receive medical, dental, and vision insurance benefits. Some employers may also offer life insurance and retirement planning options for full-time payroll assistants. Paid holidays, vacation leave, and sick days are usually included in standard benefits packages.

Helpful Resources

Use these books and websites to learn job strategies, get career guidance, and master various techniques payroll assistants need to know to succeed:

American Payroll Association - locate conferences, get up-to-date news, find education and certification programs, and discover other resources for payroll professionals at the APA website

The Employer's Payroll Question and Answer Book (2018) - read this book to get answers to complicated payroll questions involving wage garnishments, direct deposit, and other payroll problems

American Accounting Association - use the AAA website to find jobs, research payroll issues, and learn more about accounting in general

Payroll Management: 2018 Edition - enhance payroll efficiency, reduce errors, and learn strategies for processing payroll with this book, which covers basic and advanced payroll issues

National Human Resources Association - explore the career center to find jobs, discover upcoming meetings and events, and find information for human resources and related careers of all types at this website

Mastering Payroll: Paying Wages, Withholding, Depositing and Reporting Taxes, Correct Use of Government Forms - master even the most complex payroll issues, from paying out employees to managing government tax forms, with the tips in this guide

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