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Top 5 Common Payroll Mistakes by UK Employers and How to Avoid Them

Published by Bruce Bhandari
Published Date: May 11, 2023
Categories: Payroll & CIS

Payroll responsibilities are a central function of any business – after all a happy team that is paid correctly and on time is the best outcome for everyone!

However, the complexities of payrolls can be daunting for accountants, HR teams, and small business owners. The hurdles such as auto-enrolment, rolling deadlines RTI, and complex legislation can give rise to errors, overpayments, and even non-compliance. Moreover, with hefty fines in place, mistakes can be costly and time-consuming to fix. So careful planning, good record-keeping, and up-to-date knowledge are essential for a smooth process for all concerned.

Complex payrolls and past mistakes are most often the reason that we see our clients come to us for payroll support. We’ve witnessed many client errors over the years, so with that in mind, we’ve compiled five of the most common mistakes in payroll and how you can avoid making them in your business.

Common Payroll Mistakes

Here are some common payroll mistakes, failure of which can derail crucial operations of an organisations. This can lead to unavoidable financial and legal consequences. 

1. Missed Deadlines

looking at the image indicating the deadline of a task

After all, no one misses deadlines, do they? It might sound like such a clear mistake that it's possibly too clear to notice. One of the most frequent payroll errors is actually forgetting one of the numerous HMRC payroll deadlines when juggling multiple jobs. Late filing of taxes incurs a penalty.

The greatest method for avoiding deadline violations is careful planning and accurate record-keeping. Consider assigning duties to others or outsourcing some of your responsibilities if your workload feels out of control and you frequently miss deadlines in order to make time for other crucial projects.

2. Misclassification of Employees

Payroll Mistakes by UK Employers

Worker misclassification is where an employee or a contractor is wrongly attributed to a worker’s status. Contractors and freelancers are not eligible for the same rights as employees, for example, holiday allowance and pensions. If you mix these up, you’ll find yourself in a muddle, with money owing from or owed to the person in question. It’s a situation that can be time-consuming to unravel and put right.

With IR35 regulations being further reformed, it’s even more essential that you get your classifications correct on your payroll.

Good record-keeping and knowledge of the latest legislation will help you avoid this pitfall. 

3. Using the Wrong Tax Code

looking at the tax codes for your employees to ensure they are paid correctly

Tax codes can easily be incorrectly used; this causes a headache for employers and means that employees can end up paying more tax than they need to – or not enough.

New starters, employees with a second income, and those with company benefits such as a  car or private medical insurance; are just some of the numerous nuances that affect tax codes.

Keeping on top of tax codes for your employees is crucial to ensure they are paid correctly and HMRC collects the right amount of tax. Regularly checking and updating your records will help you stay on top of changes. Tax codes can be double-checked with HMRC. Employers will find signing up for the HMRC PAYE dashboard helpful for employers, as the tax codes can be reviewed and downloaded using this service.

4. Auto-Enrolment Pension

looking for the image indicating the proper enrolment of staffs

Auto-enrolment has added an extra burden. Ensuring all your qualified employees are enrolled in the workplace pension scheme means careful record keeping.

It's important for employers to enrol only qualified employees and manage those who have opted out or postponed their contributions.

Additionally, they must keep track of re-enrolment and declaration anniversaries to meet their legal obligations under automatic enrolment duties. In addition, employers have a legal responsibility to comply with automatic enrolment duties.

Ensuring that you are fully versed in the rules of the system is the first step. The second is maintaining excellent records. Most importantly, ensure that you are on top of the changing legislation. Software or outsourcing payroll can help you with this part.

5. Miscalculating Pay 

Miscalculating payroll, Tax

Pay miscalculations can happen with salaried or hourly employees. For example, the first paycheck for new hires is frequently missed, incorrect retroactive payments are made, incorrect amounts are deducted for benefits or other payroll deductions, and employees on disability or other leaves of absence are improperly paid. These are just a few examples of common calculation errors. 

The ideal solution for this might be to outsource payroll and maintain precise records and calculations.

How to Avoid Errors in Payroll

looking for an image representing something to be avoided

Being aware of the most common errors is the first step to avoiding them for your business. This, in turn, will allow for a smooth process and happy employees.

For you to stay in compliance and carry out your payroll appropriately, keeping impeccable records is essential. The foundation of a successful payroll service for your company and your employees are, in the end, rigorous training, outsourcing payroll, and current knowledge.

Because it's important to stay current with legislative changes and payroll innovations, many businesses outsource their payroll needs to a qualified payroll professional. Experienced teams, such as our knowledgeable payroll bureau, are well-equipped to handle complex payrolls. We can provide a comprehensive solution that ensures seamless payroll operation every month.


In summary, payroll responsibilities are crucial for any business, and mistakes in payroll can result in hefty fines and non-compliance issues. The five most common payroll mistakes include missed deadlines, misclassification of employees, using the wrong tax code, auto-enrolment pensions, and miscalculating pay. The best way to avoid these errors is through careful planning, good record-keeping, and up-to-date knowledge of the latest legislation.

Outsourcing payroll to an experienced & knowledgeable team can also ensure these mistakes are avoided. Keeping impeccable records and maintaining precise calculations are essential for a successful payroll service for your company and your employees. By following these tips and avoiding common mistakes, you can ensure a smooth process and happy employees.

Bruce Bhandari
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