Tracy Angwin on Talking Business, Qantas Radio.
Very few people other than Alan Kohler could weave being a dairy farmer’s daughter, payroll and dinner with Boy George into a 10 minute podcast!
Follow along with the transcription below
Unknown Speaker 0:01
This is talking business.
Alan Kohler 0:05
I’m joined now by Tracy Anglin, who’s the CEO of the Australian Payroll Association. Goodday Tracy, thanks for joining us.
Tracy Angwin 0:11
Thanks for having me.
Alan Kohler 0:11
Not only are you the CEO of this Payroll Association, you started it, did you not?
Tracy Angwin 0:16
I did, I did about 10 years ago.
Alan Kohler 0:18
And why did you do that?
Tracy Angwin 0:19
Well, it’s a really complicated industry, as you know, and my background was 16 years working for payroll vendors. And whilst I realized that technology was a part of the solution, it’s certainly not all the solution. And so we needed to help employers, you know, find not just the technology solution, but you know, what was happening in the processes and training. Training is a big one, because it’s really an under invested part of business, we find.
Alan Kohler 0:44
You said something like, as you know, but I don’t know anything about payroll. So you need to educate us.
Tracy Angwin 0:52
Well, maybe you don’t have to follow the media as closely as I do on the topic.
Alan Kohler 0:56
Possibly not. But you’re a guru of payroll. You’ve been hanging around there for ages, you know all about payroll?
Tracy Angwin 1:04
Well, it’s all I know, as I said before, I’d be doing something like digging ditches if it wasn’t for payroll. And yeah, at the end of the day, like I said, it’s, it’s an area of business that’s almost like the naughty child as if it’s doesn’t make a noise, no one sort of goes there looking for what the problems might be. But we also find that’s where the opportunities lie. And one of the things we do a lot of in payroll, sort of into payroll reviews and compliance auditing. And there is a lot of media at the moment with a lot of large businesses making big mistakes in terms of underpayments. But with more than 50% of the audits that we do, we also find overpayments. So it’s really worthwhile having a look at your payroll function if you don’t already.
Alan Kohler 1:44
Right, and if there is overpayment, do the people give the money back?
Tracy Angwin 1:48
Well, it actually depends. To be honest, the best practice that I’ve seen is that you sort of say to your employees, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news, you know, the bad news is we’ve found we’ve been overpaying you but the good news is we won’t look to recoup that. That’s typically how it would work because you’re going to really have some issues culturally if you start trying to recoup either payments that go back years. But obviously, there is an implication because employees might otherwise feel they’ve had a pay cut.
Alan Kohler 2:17
Yes. And but if it goes the other way, that is to say there’s been underpayment. It certainly gets recouped, doesn’t it?
Tracy Angwin 2:23
Oh, my word. Absolutely. So the authorities take underpayment very seriously. It’s very damaging in the media as well, because the media love a big brand story, you know, ripping off employees is the typical headline that we see. And then you know, you’re looking at potentially going back a long time and even though the underpayments might not be material for one employee on one pay period, over a large employee population over many, many years, it can end up to the a very big number with lots of zeros on the end.
Alan Kohler 2:57
Yes, indeed. Well, are your members payroll consultants or are they the payroll departments of companies?
Tracy Angwin 3:05
The payroll department, so we work with everything from sort of single bookkeepers right up through to Coles and Woolworths.
Alan Kohler 3:12
Right. And what’s going on with the restaurant industry? Why are they underpaying people all the time?
Tracy Angwin 3:17
Well, it’s not just the restaurant industry, it’s just that they found a couple of restauranters with big names that they could, you know, find some problems with. It’s all industries. It’s retail. There’s been quite a lot of underpayments in retail. But you know, it is a difficult area. We’ve done some research recently where 90% of payroll managers actually felt that they didn’t have the skill to be able to interpret the payroll legislation. So that’s a big problem and put on top of that the another statistic from our 2019 Payroll benchmarking survey, only 10% of payroll employees or people who work in the payroll industry, have a competency based qualification. You’re going to have payroll problems where they’ll be under payments over payments or on just other associated compliance issues.
Alan Kohler 4:09
Do you mean that people can go work for the payroll department of a company just from somewhere else without doing any study at all?
Tracy Angwin 4:17
Absolutely. You know, I’ve been working in this industry 26 years and I’m yet to find someone who actively chose to be in the payroll industry to be a payroll professional.
Alan Kohler 4:26
So are there any qualifications at all? I mean, do you have to learn because surely, if you’re in the payroll department of a business, you’ve got to know what’s going on?
Tracy Angwin 4:34
Yeah, absolutely. It sounds obvious, right? But it doesn’t necessarily, not that obvious in practice. There is the minimum requirement that we suggest and recommend to employers as a Certificate for Payroll Administration. If you can either hire in people with that qualification, or if you can’t find them, because remember, only 10% of people who work in the payroll industry have that qualification, we highly recommend employers invest in that qualification for their team.
Alan Kohler 5:02
So have the high profile, you know, catches of people under paying their employees led to an increase in inquiries about getting some qualifications. I mean, is the industry starting to think about how it might get its act together?
Tracy Angwin 5:16
Look, a mild increase but what we’ve really seen an increase in is an inquiry into our payroll reviews and our compliance auditing because both executives and non executive directors are thinking crikey, if it can happen to, you know, Commonwealth Bank, Wollongong University, Qantas, Rebel Sport and Lush, it can probably happen to us.
Alan Kohler 5:36
Yes, indeed. Well, that probably can. I mean, it does feel like the franchising and restaurant I mean, is that a false impression that some of those industries more prevalent or you know, more prone to underpay employees and others?
Tracy Angwin 5:51
They do have complexities that you know, a nine to five, Monday to Friday company might not have so restaurants, retail, hospitality, healthcare as well. They’ve got, you know, potentially 24/7 rosters, they’ve got a high number of casuals and part timers, which can also cause complexity. And often, if you’re a national employer as well, that adds real complexity, because we’ve got both federal and state governments that regulate the payroll industry.
Alan Kohler 6:22
Yeah. Right. So I assume, perhaps wrongly, that a lot of the problem was that there’s just in some industries, a lot of pressure, constant pressure on margins and revenue because people don’t want to pay so much. I mean, I think that applies to nursing homes and so on. There’s pressure on pricing in that industry and also pressure on pricing in restaurants. Is that a, is that a reasonable observation or not?
Tracy Angwin 6:44
Um, look, I think in smaller business, yes, it is. I think we’ve seen a lot of prosecutions with smaller restaurants, for example, that, particularly with vulnerable workers are doing the wrong thing. But all the employees that we work with, which are mainly sort of 100 employees and up we’ve done most of the names that you would read about in the media where they’ve had payroll problems. Most of those we have worked in on some capacity. And then every single time the executives that we work with that, absolutely horrified when we find these problems.
Alan Kohler 7:16
Yes ofcourse. What about your own background, Tracy? You started off in a dairy farm. I think you were born, were you born on a dairy farm?
Tracy Angwin 7:24
You’ve done some research. I feel like this is your life.
Alan Kohler 7:28
This is this is your life.
Tracy Angwin 7:31
I was. I am a dairy farmer’s daughter from New Zealand in fact.
Alan Kohler 7:35
I did pick that up. Yes.
Tracy Angwin 7:38
Running Australian Payroll Association, go figure. And New Zealand payroll is also complicated and that’s where I where I started as well. So I did my schooling and University in New Zealand and like most of my industry colleagues, I fell into the payroll industry with a New Zealand firm that was providing payroll software and they eventually then moved me to Australia where I’ve worked for a couple of some of the sort of the larger payroll companies so really spent a lot of time really getting to understand employers and what their problems were around payroll from a technology point of view. But as I said, technology is only part of the solution.
Alan Kohler 8:13
But is technology starting to transform payroll or not?
Tracy Angwin 8:19
Look, I think what it’s transforming is the employee experience. The actual payroll is really the same as what it has been for the last 26 years that I’ve been involved in this industry. Being able to deliver information to employees and managers on mobile now and also, you know, that goes for rostering as well, and we’re using things like our facial recognition technology. But essentially, facial recognition technology is just the upgraded version of the old fashioned Bundy clock. The actual payroll process remains the same, but the employees are far more engaged with payroll so they’re more likely to, you know, check their super fund or make sure that they are being paid correctly and they can call Fairwork. It’s a lot easier now for employees to find out if they are being paid incorrectly than it used to be.
Alan Kohler 9:05
Right. Just back to you. You said that I’ve been doing my research Well, in fact, you know, I’ve just got a little briefing sheet here on you, that says you’re a part time manager of Luke from the voice. What does that mean? Who’s Luke?
Tracy Angwin 9:19
Luke Antony was a voice contestant couple of years ago now, he’s a fantastic Australian singer. And he’s also the, my son also sings, so he’s also a voice coach of my son so um, and he was on Boy George’s team and couple of years ago I had dinner with Boy George. So that’s my sort of claim to fame there.
Alan Kohler 9:43
Just you and Boy?
Tracy Angwin 9:45
And Luke. It was pretty interesting. That’s for a whole another conversation.
Alan Kohler 9:50
Come on, tell us what was it like?
Tracy Angwin 9:53
Well, I mean, he was very different to what I thought actually. Very modest, considered man, which is not necessarily what you’d see on the Voice.
Alan Kohler 10:01
No indeed and it certainly wouldn’t be, but it’s just showbiz isn’t it?
Tracy Angwin 10:06
It is, exactly but I mean it’s like everything isn’t it? You can you know what do you actually see in what you are really for the viewer if you like.
Alan Kohler 10:16
That’s right. Well it’s been great talking to you Tracy appreciate it. Thanks.
Tracy Angwin 10:20
No trouble at all.
Alan Kohler 10:21
I’ve been talking to Tracy Angwin, who’s the CEO of Australian Payroll Association.