After six years’ experience at SARS, a tax degree and a healthy respect for compliance I entered the payroll / Human Resources outsourcing environment with HRTorQue Outsourcing in 1999. I was blissfully unaware at the time how much legislation covered the payroll / HR environment and how challenging its interpretation would be.
Over a period of 20 years, what is abundantly clear is that whilst South Africa may have legislation that is deemed to be ‘world-class’ a lot of this legislation severely complicates the interpretation of any issue, as in most cases the various definitions in such Acts have not been aligned. An extremely good example is the definition of ’employee’. This definition varies wildly between the Acts and this complicates the interpretation of matters pertaining to the inclusion of individuals in specific taxes / levies. This poses risk as companies are required to apply their minds to situations and may end up making interpretations that may not agree to how issues are applied by the legislative entities. These situations not only waste a lot of unnecessary time and effort, but also potentially expose the client to liability.
Another area where we have seen massive changes is the policing of legislation. Not only has policing increased, but the techniques used have become more innovative and ‘aggressive’. Systems have been implemented to link UIF and Workman’s Compensation and the existing systems linking UIF and SARS improved. 10 years ago, you could guarantee that SARS would not communicate with the Department of Labour on compliance issues. Nowadays, if you need a UIF Certificate of Compliance don’t be surprised if when it’s rejected that you are referred to SARS to get your UIF affairs in order. It’s also important to start preparing yourself for Workman’s Compensation queries if payroll, UIF and COID records do not match.
Whilst progress is inevitable, on the coalface we see how difficult it is for employers to get employees with the requisite skills to ensure compliance in this fast-paced industry. This challenge even led me to undertake a dissertation on the benefits of Human Resource outsourcing as part of my studies towards an MBA. The results clearly pointed to the fact that the employee pool in South Africa lacks the skills and experience to tackle the onerous payroll and HR needs for the average South African company. The cost of employing an individual with the necessary skills is beyond the budget of most of these companies and companies have had to therefore look at other options to ensure compliance and meet industry best practice. It has been exciting to be part of the solution to this problem. Identifying solutions to meet specific company’s needs, whilst challenging, is rewarding as these custom solutions utilise the skills across the range of experienced employees in the HRTorQue stable.
The changing payroll / HR environment means that we can never rest on our laurels. With no day ever being the same, there is no time to stagnate and that means continuously growing as a person and consultant. Not many people can say that their job offers them that. If you can marry the challenges of dealing with difficult (and sometimes disgruntled) people with this potential for personal and intellectual growth, I would suggest investing in a career involving payroll and HR legislative compliance.