Payslip-ups. Do your employees care how much they’re paid?

With wages beginning to rise and a shortage of talent in many sectors across Europe, you’d expect employees to know their worth.

Yet according to the fourth annual Workforce View in Europe report, almost a quarter of Europe’s employees (rising to 28% in the UK) wouldn’t notice if they were paid incorrectly. The ADP study questioned over 10,500 workers across eight countries, and found that a large number of respondents either don’t check their payslips or don’t really understand what’s on them.

The confusion is even worse among younger employees, with over 34% of the 16-34 age group not knowing how much should be going into their bank account. Among over-55s this figure falls to just 19% - a number that’s still far too high for a generation approaching retirement, who you’d expect to be carefully checking pensions and other benefits.

It’s important that employees check their payslips, as errors could lead to:

  • the employee having to pay back an overpayment or wait for an underpaid amount,
  • legal action,
  • problems when applying for mortgages and loans,
  • an unexpected tax bill,
  • pension problems,
  • maternity or paternity leave being questioned,
  • visa applications not being granted.

Fortunately, payslip errors are extremely rare but workers still need to understand their pay and deductions. With flexible working on the increase, and many organisations looking at new ways of working, employees need to understand how workplace changes might affect them in future.

A six-day working week?

Ever since the European Working Time Directive limited the working week to 48 hours back in 2003, there’s been a move towards shorter hours. The French introduced a 35-hour working week, Germany’s employment ministry has banned employers from emailing staff out of hours and more than half of all workers in the Netherlands are now part time.

Despite this, or maybe as a result of shorter working weeks, the Workforce View in Europe 2019 found that 60% of employees are now working unpaid overtime. Europe’s workers believe that they’re putting in an average of almost five hours extra each week for free, with 12% saying this reaches more than 10 hours a week, with work extending over lunch, into the evening or over weekends. Unpaid overtime is even more common among younger workers, with 17% of 16 to 24-year-olds saying that they do more than ten hours per week. Even this is lower than the UK, however, where more than a fifth of all respondents (22%) say they’re working more than ten hours a week without pay.

Or a four-day working week?

Of course, workers do care how much they’re paid (especially in Italy, where 21% believe they’re underpaid), even if they don’t always understand their payslips. And many of them care how much others are paid, too, with 27% of workers believing there is a need for gender pay gap reporting in their organisation.

For many of Europe’s workers, however, work-life balance is important and they value their leisure time – or they’d like more time to care for their families. More than half of Europe’s employees would like to work a four-day week — and thirteen percent would be happy even if this meant a reduced salary. Although a considerably larger number (44%) would like to see their salary remain the same. 

Whether or not more organisations embrace the four-day week, there’s little doubt that workplaces are becoming increasingly flexible and fluid. This puts even more demands on payroll practitioners as employees’ hours and working periods can change from one payday to the next. Modern payroll systems are more than capable of coping with these changes, but if employees are having trouble understanding their payslips today, they could find it even more difficult in future. 

If workers don’t understand how they’re paid, it could also make conversations about changes in working practices more difficult. Is it a just a case of HR checking that employees understand pay, deductions and benefits information? Or is it time for employers to rethink the way payslips are presented? Perhaps we need to ask employees in our own organisations what they think.

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