The payroll associate ensures employees are paid accurately and on time; payroll-processing duties vary by employer. A payroll associate is sometimes called a payroll assistant or payroll clerk. To capably fulfill her role in your company, she must have the necessary qualifications and personal attributes.


The payroll associate might be required to process the entire payroll from start to finish. She reviews and calculates time cards and makes applicable changes. She computes wages and salaries, performs mandatory and voluntary deductions, and generates direct deposit files and paychecks and pay stubs. An effective payroll associate understands federal, state and local wage and hour policies and employment tax laws. Her duties sometimes go beyond payroll processing, as she’s usually required to work with related departments such as human resources and finance or accounting.


The payroll associate needs excellent written and verbal communication skills to effectively solve payroll disputes and respond to inquiries from managers, supervisors, employees and related third-parties. Many companies use payroll and timekeeping software to process payroll and track employees’ time; an associate who understands your payroll system increases efficiency. She should still know how to manually calculate payroll in case a system glitch occurs. Knowledge of multi-state payroll comes in handy if you have employees in different states. If you have different paydays such as biweekly and semi-monthly, knowledge of these processes is also useful.


A keen eye for detail is essential for data analysis purposes. The payroll associate should also be organized and trustworthy. She has access to other employees’ wage and salary conditions and to their personal financial data. The latter includes bank routing and account numbers and whether they’ve been subjected to wage garnishment or child support withholding. Many companies have their payroll staff sign a confidentiality agreement.


The payroll associate often reports to the payroll manager or payroll supervisor, but this isn’t always the case. For example, along with payroll duties, she also performs significant benefit administration tasks that include compiling benefits packages; tracking and maintaining vacation, leave, sick and personal time; and reconciling benefit enrollment. In this case, she operates as a human resources/payroll associate and may report to the human resources director or manager.


Some companies train the payroll associate if she has general office skills, a high school diploma and the required personal attributes. Sometimes, a minimum of two years’ payroll experience and excellent data entry and computer skills are required. In other cases, a minimum of five years’ experience and an associate degree or equivalent training or education might be required. Some employers prefer experience in multi-state processing or garnishments and Certified Payroll Professional designation. In many cases, the associate must pass a background check, which includes a credit check.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes payroll and timekeeping clerks as a financial clerk occupation. As of May 2010, the median annual salary for payroll and timekeeping clerks was $36,330.