A payroll assistant position may not be glamorous, but other employees tend to be grateful for the work you do since it results in paychecks being issued. Your duties will vary depending on the size of your company. In a small business you might do everything except analyze payroll reports and sign the checks, while in a larger company your work may be focused on data entry and clerical tasks. A payroll assistant can report to a payroll supervisor, department head or controller depending on the size and structure of the company.
You don't need an education beyond high school to work as a payroll assistant, but you should be able to show that you completed some business classes, have good math skills, and can work with computer software programs and adding machines. Some employers like to see at least a few college level courses or an associate degree in accounting or business. Some general office work or cashiering experience might also help you get a job. Good communication skills are necessary for answering questions from coworkers. It's important to remember that payroll is considered sensitive information, and employers need to know that you can keep information confidential. You also need to work well with deadlines, because paychecks must be issued on time.
Employee time sheets are generally the responsibility of the payroll assistant. You'll collect and check them for accuracy, and enter them in the payroll system. You might also code them with general ledger account numbers before the data entry step. You could run the physical checks and handle the process for direct deposit. You'll pass the checks and payroll reports to your supervisor for approval and signature before distributing checks to employees. Some changes to deductions in employee pay are often handled by the assistant, such as processing wage garnishments or changes to premium payments for benefits.
The payroll assistant often ensures that employee payroll files are up-to-date and accurate, entering any changes into the system. When an employee has a change in status, such as adding or subtracting dependents, or submits a new W-4 withholding form, you'll record that information and verify that the payroll system is updated. Filing is a large part of the job. Check copies, financial reports and other records need to be accurately and securely filed away on a regular basis. You may answer simple questions from employees and prepare notices about payroll department issues.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the job growth rate for payroll and time-keeping clerks will be 15 percent through 2020, and that payroll software programs that employees can use to record their time will keep the demand for this job from growing much. Ask your employer to take on new responsibilities and take some accounting courses or earn a degree to make yourself more competitive when it comes to job advancement to positions such as payroll lead, department head or payroll accountant.