As the coronavirus vaccine begins to roll out across the country, NHS England has launched a new recruitment drive as part of its National Vaccination Programme. Tens of thousands of potential vaccinators and support staff are being sought to ensure local services are ready to protect millions of people from the virus, writes Nicola Hirshfield, head of HR delivery at Cantium Business Solutions

Estimations on the length of time it will take to carry out the vaccination programme vary; however, with a new report by the National Audit Office suggesting that the NHS may need as many as 46,000 additional staff, potentially made up of 26,000 vaccinators and 20,000 administrators, individual payroll departments are set to process thousands of new starters. So, how can payroll prepare for this?

Supporting a growing workforce

It all starts with quality data. From tax bands to rates of pay, having the correct information will be important for payroll departments as the NHS employs more staff and the workforce grows. Accurate and detailed data will be instrumental in helping senior leaders make crucial staffing decisions.

Good payroll management is essential for good people management. For this reason, payroll has an important role to play in the National Vaccination Programme – and subsequently our way out of the coronavirus pandemic.

For payroll departments, having the most up-to-date information means they can get it right first time. One of the most common causes of errors is the misclassification of staff. Whether classed as an employee, contractor or temporary worker, making mistakes in the way employees are classified can result in costly penalties. That is why it is so important to have quality data from the outset. Not only does it save time, but it also means that employee data can be immediately integrated with any rostering systems that are in use. This enables newly recruited vaccinators to quickly become available for shifts and start supporting NHS staff who are embarking on this monumental task.

As part of the vaccination programme, new joiners may take on more than one role. They can range from vaccinators to cleaners as well as administrators, healthcare assistants, registered health professional, clinical supervisors and nursing manages. For individuals who are set up on multiple rotas, it is imperative that this information is clearly communicated with the payroll function so they can be onboarded quickly and effectively. For payroll teams, it is all about the number of roles, not the number of new people.

Once processed, payroll will need to keep track of employees and their current status. Whether they are in receipt of sick pay or on long-term sickness, keeping tabs on employees can help to minimise any under or overpayments.


Outsourced payroll services

As the National Vaccination Programme picks up momentum, it will be important for outsourced payroll teams to engage with NHS customers as soon as possible. Having conversations at this early stage will help ensure the service can scale with the requirements of the Trust or healthcare organisation.

This is an approach we have taken with our own customers, including Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust. As a lead provider for the coronavirus vaccination programme, we have added hundreds of new employees to the payroll over the last few weeks.

Offering a degree of flexibility will help to navigate the increase in payroll activity and changing needs of healthcare providers. Whether it is offering services remotely or reducing the standard payroll period, teams will need to adapt in order to meet the demand as more people join the workforce.


Much more than a payslip

As the National Vaccination Programme begins to rollout across the country, all eyes will be on NHS staff and support workers. Times of change and high pressure can be testing for employee morale and if basic functions like payroll do not run smoothly, there is a risk that healthcare providers will lose the trust of new and existing staff.

Over the course of this year, payroll has already had to overcome many challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, from changing legislation to increasing compliance and managing the impact of changing employment levels. Now there is a new mountain to climb: vaccinating millions of people as quickly as possible at the same time as keeping other vital NHS services going.

It is a huge task, and one that will require lots more staff. That is why an accurate and unified payroll function is crucial to help make staffing decisions and help us get back to normal.