[originally published on Law.com, April 6, 2005 . First published in Law Technology News as Automating Benefits and Payroll Services.]
Administration of benefits may be a simple process, yet, without automation, it can be an expensively slow process. Whether you develop your own software or use an outside vendor, a simple web form, properly secured, can automate many repetitive processes with some dividends.
Here at the Cincinnati Law Library Association, we recently moved our benefits payments online, using the Ohio Public Employees Pension System (OPERS) Employer Contribution System. In our case, one staff person has limited access to the system, in order to complete the basic report and determine how much is owed in contributions. The completed report is submitted online, and appears in my OPERS account for approval. I then schedule the payment to be paid electronically on the date due. Each step of the process can be monitored: due dates, report completion, payment schedule, payment history.
Likewise, law firm compensation administration can be time-consuming, because salary changes, new hires, tax withholding, and other modifications make it less routine than regular benefits processing. Additionally, payroll can be complex because of the taxes and insurance payments that are required. Any time saved through direct access to information can be significant, both to the administrator and to the employee’s peace of mind.
Firms have long used external payroll services to make this process more efficient. The first thing you can check is whether your current payroll service provides web access. If not, consider moving to one of the many services that do, including Automatic Data Processing Inc. (www.adp.com) or Paychex Inc. (www.paychex.com).
Using a checklist for selecting a payroll service (see LTN, Feb. 2001) as a guideline, you can quickly determine if a change is right for you.
I recently benchmarked our paper-only payroll service against Paychex and ADP. While the reports and payroll handling were the same, two features stood out as advantages for the online services.
The first was 24-hour access to payroll information. Currently, changes happen during business hours and require an intermediary. Going online enables direct access to change an address or name, update salary information and confirm that payments were occurring properly.
The second was cost. Any savings in time or money is valuable. Direct access should save time, but because of the nature of online services, using one can actually be less expensive than a paper service. We might save 15 percent annually by adopting an online service. For additional discounts, check your professional association for payroll service member benefits.
One of the great mysteries of life, up there with missing socks in dryers, is the office supply catalog. The prices marked are never what you pay and so you spend time trying to determine whether you are getting the best price. Using an online office supply company can provide an effective alternative.
As with payroll services, one of your association memberships may offer a discount option. A quick review of recent office supply bills showed that our offline supply company was competitive. But in several areas, the online store provided significant savings as well as greater choice. Additionally, the online store’s purchase process uses an electronic review process. Staff throughout the firm can request supplies but authorization and payment can be centralized,.