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Payroll Administrator Level 3

Payroll Administrators will, typically, have responsibility for setting up and operating the payroll within the organisation in which they are employed or on behalf of another organisation.  The role may be located within a business / organisation or in a payroll bureau, book-keeping or accounting practice, or professional services company.  The job may sit within the HR or Finance function.

In medium-to-large organisations, a Payroll Administrator may work as part of a team, often reporting to a team leader, supervisor or manager.  In smaller organisations, a Payroll Administrator may be a stand-alone role with sole responsibility for the payroll function. Additionally, and depending on their role within the organisation, a Payroll Administrator may also have responsibility for the accurate and timely completion of routine and non-routine payroll-related calculations and other information. 

The main duties may typically include:

  • Gathering, creating and processing of payroll-related information to ensure employees are paid on time and accurately. This will be via payroll software, though it’s use must be accompanied by the ability to perform this manually
  • Compliance with legislative and contractual obligations
  • Internal and external reporting of payroll information to deadlines
  • Effective and appropriate communication with employees and relevant stakeholders
  • Working to relevant ethical and professional standards in a legislative and regulatory environment that is constantly changing

Competence within the payroll occupation is demonstrated in this Standard by the required Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours detailed below.

On completion of the Apprenticeship, a competent Payroll Administrator will meet the following requirements:

KnowledgeWhat is required for occupational competence?
Business and Customer AwarenessThe payroll function is different depending on the sector in which the organisation is operating.  To create, process, validate and report payroll-related information, it is essential to know the environment in which the organisation exists.  For example, is the role in the private or public sector, is it a bureau-type operation, internal function etc.  Understand and appreciate that this awareness information is crucial to recognising customer and supplier needs and obligations, both internal and external
PayrollCoreThe overall purpose of the function is to process payrolls on time and accurately.  This requires a wide overview of many different activities that will or may be encountered.  For example:The legislative framework surrounding payroll, employment and pensionsDevolution in the UKThe different types of workers in the UKThe different types of pay that exist (gross, taxable, National Insurance applicable, etc), statutory payments and deductions, Court Orders and the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)Real-Time Information (RTI)Benefits-in-KindGender Pay Gap ReportingGain familiarity, knowledge and an understanding of these core elements
PensionsThe Payroll and Pension professions are intrinsically linked.  Achieve an overview of the pension landscape as it affects payroll, for example the different types of schemes, the UK systems of tax relief and the relevance of the State Pension. Further, a broad understanding and appreciation of the structure of workplace pensions / Auto-Enrolment is fundamental.  This includes the key rules, roles and administration responsibilities as per guidance produced by The Pensions Regulator
TechnicalTo ensure the organisation meets its payroll-related statutory and contractual obligations, understand the technical aspects of payroll for the accurate calculation of gross through to net pay.  This includes the calculation of the statutory payments and deductions, including voluntary deductions
Regulation and CompliancePayroll is governed by regulation and compliance standards which must be applied in the workplace.  A Payroll Administrator will understand how to apply the regulatory, compliance and legislative environment for the technical payroll aspects above.  This is in respect of the impact in their role for both the organisation and the payees, including data protection / confidentiality
Systems and processes Payroll information is created, verified and reported via a combination of systems and processes, such as the payroll software itself, finance, HR and IT systems.  A working knowledge of these is fundamental to an administrator’s ability to perform their role at the workplace.A Payroll Administrator will be proficient in the systems and processes that are applicable in their role, including at least one piece of computerised payroll software and spreadsheet package, such as Microsoft Excel
SkillsWhat is required for occupational competence?
Planning and PrioritisationProactively takes responsibility for planning, organising and prioritising their workload and time in order to successfully achieve results within deadlines. Positively performs in pressurised situations responding to changes where necessary. Recognises where issues need to be escalated
AnalysisUsing the Knowledge requirements in ‘Payroll’ as they apply at the workplace, correctly judges and interprets information to make effective decisions on data processing. This is with the overall aim of ensuring payroll deadlines are met. Assumes ownership through to resolution, escalating complex situations where appropriate
Uses Systems and ProcessesDemonstrates the ability to identify and effectively use the appropriate workplace systems and processes required to complete tasks.  For example, to write letters, send and receive E-Mail, analyse, input and report on payroll-related data. Example systems may include MS Office, or equivalent, and the payroll software used in the workplace
Produces Quality and Accurate InformationEffectively apply Knowledge to consistently deliver high quality, accurate data and information in a timely fashion. Demonstrates the relevant use of agreed workplace systems and processes to deliver quality service to customers on a range of payroll-related queries and requirements
Team Working and  CollaborationWithin the organisation, recognises and demonstrates their own role within the team and the impact of their actions on others working in it. Consistently collaborates and supports colleagues within the team to achieve results, while also being able to work independently. Builds and maintains positive relationships within their own team and across the organisation
Communication and EngagementExternal to the organisation, recognises stakeholders and demonstrates appropriate professional communication and engagement methods. For example, this may include employees if the payroll function is performed in-house or may include clients if operating in a bureau-type operation. Further, this will include liaison with payroll representative bodies and stakeholders such as HMRC and The Pensions Regulator. Deal with queries in an efficient and professional manner, ensuring positive relationships are built and maintained
Behaviours What is required for occupational competence?
Ethics and IntegrityTruthful, sincere and trustworthy in all actions and interactions, maintaining confidentiality at all times. Consistently respects others and meets the ethical requirements of the payroll profession
AdaptabilityListens, learns and adapts positively to changing priorities and working requirements. Accepts change and demonstrates the flexibility to maintain high professional standards in a changing environment
Professional ScepticismHas the ability and confidence to use sound questioning and verification techniques on receipt of payroll-related information in the workplace.  This is with the overall purpose of being alert to any possible misstatement of factual information due to error or fraud
Proactivity and EnthusiasmDisplays energy and enthusiasm in performing the role, staying resilient under pressure. Takes responsibility for their work, accepting feedback and dealing positively with setbacks and challenges when they occur. Takes responsibility for their own personal development
Professional DevelopmentAdopts a positive approach to maintaining and developing knowledge and skills through a range of methods, for example workplace learning, research and professional courses. Embraces opportunities for continuous professional development and actively records development in both their current role and throughout their career in the payroll profession

The Payroll Apprentice Assessment Plan 

The Payroll Apprentice Assessment Plan has three distinct stages:

  1. On-Programme Assessment (learning, mentoring and development)
  2. Gateway Assessment and
  3. End-Point Assessment (demonstration of learning and development)


On-Programme is a vital element of the learning and development process, during which time Apprentices will acquire and develop the necessary Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours, where used.  Throughout On-Programme, the employer and apprenticeship training provider, where used, will constantly assess the learning and development, providing support, advice, guidance and mentoring as is necessary at the appropriate time.


Following On-Programme (learning, development and assessment), the Apprentice moves to the ‘Gateway’ process. This is the single determinant that the Apprentice has met the competencies of the Standard and the learning outcomes (in Appendix 2) and is ready for End-Point Assessment. The decision on whether or not the Apprentice is ready for End-Point Assessment will be made by the employer.

It is good practice for the Employer to meet with the Apprentice and also the apprenticeship training provider to discuss Apprentice readiness, however, the decision to progress the Apprentice through the Gateway to End-Point Assessment is the employer’s alone.

Apprentices without Level 2 English and Maths will need to achieve this level prior to taking End-Point Assessment. For those with an education, health and care plan or a legacy statement, the apprenticeship’s English and Maths minimum requirement is Entry Level 3. British Sign Language qualifications are an alternative to English qualifications for whom this is their primary language.


EPA is performed by an independent End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO), and is graded to determine whether an overall Fail, Pass or Distinction grade must be given and, as such, whether a Certificate of Apprenticeship is awarded.

The EPA consists of three assessment methods:

  1. Multiple-Choice questions
  2. The Role Simulation
  3. The Professional Discussion

Each assessment method must directly assess the Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours contained in the Standard. All three methods must be completed and passed within a three-month maximum period.


The following Knowledge learning outcomes will be assessed via this method:

  1. Payroll (Core)
  2. Payroll (Pensions)

This assessment method is closed book. It can be performed remotely and electronically as well as in the presence of the Independent Assessor. The identity of the Apprentice must be confirmed by the EPAO.

Assessment by Multiple-Choice questions must be completed within 2 hours with no breaks. There will be 50 questions. Each Multiple-Choice question will have 4 possible answers, with only one correct option. The Apprentice is asked 30 factual questions, 10 scenario-based questions and 10 contextualised questions.

Synoptic Role Simulation

The following Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours learning outcomes will be assessed via this method:

  1. Payroll (Technical)
  2. Planning and Prioritisation
  3. Analysis
  4. Produces Quality and Accurate Information
  5. Communication and Engagement
  6. Professional Scepticism

The overall purpose of the Role Simulation is to synoptically test whether the Apprentice is able to gather and analyse the necessary data to be able to perform manual payroll calculations down to net pay, assessing the Payroll Technical Knowledge.

The EPAO will construct a Role Simulation in accordance with the following criteria:

  • The Role Simulation can only take place after the Apprentice has achieved at least a Pass in the Multiple-Choice assessment
  • At the start of the Role Simulation, Apprentices will be given information about a fictitious organisation:
    • They will then be presented with a variety of tasks relating to this information in sufficient complexity as is appropriate at Level 3
    • The tasks will be holistic and include 3 case scenarios relating to the same fictitious organisation, and must require the apprentice to provide written responses on a template provided by the EPAO covering:

(a) Their manual calculations of payroll

(b) Their written analysis of the scenarios

(c) Their communication of outcomes to the fictitious organisation

  • The tasks will cover all of the learning outcomes (Appendix 2) being tested by the Role Simulation.
  • The Role Simulation can take place in an approved examination centre; the workplace; or online.
  • The Role Simulation is performed in ‘real-life’ conditions, reflecting those that apply at the workplace. As such:
    • The Role Simulation will last 3 hours (+/- 10% tolerance permitted) within 1 working day
    • Apprentices may have up to 3 breaks, each one with a maximum of 1 hour’s duration
    • During the Role Simulation, to simulate a working environment, the Apprentice must be allowed access to the Internet for research purposes, but not social networking sites
    • The Apprentice can bring into the controlled Role Simulation any tools / factcards / booklets they believe may be appropriate (i.e. open book with no restrictions applying)
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