Payroll Compliance in the UK: 8 Must-Know Tips for Businesses

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The UK’s regulatory landscape can be complex to navigate for business owners, and payroll compliance is no exception. Ensuring your business is compliant with HMRC’s payroll regulations is not only a legal obligation, but is also vital for maintaining a healthy corporate culture, satisfied employees, and a positive business reputation.

There are ways to ensure that your business remains compliant in both the short and long term. You can do this by staying updated on legislative changes, keeping up-to-date payroll records, utilising payroll software, and more.

In this article, we’ll dive into payroll compliance in the UK, how to stay on top of your payroll obligations, how much payroll outsourcing costs, and more.

What Is Payroll Compliance?

Payroll compliance is the process of adhering to HMRC and local regulations for payroll and any associated taxes by HMRC (Her/His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). These regulations cover payments of wages/salaries, benefits, deductions, and taxes on behalf of employees and contractors.

The compliance process includes accurately tracking and calculating payroll information, reporting to HMRC on a timely basis, and ensuring compliance with employment legislation both new and old.

9 Payroll Compliance Tips for UK Businesses

Let’s explore eight of the most important payroll compliance tips for UK businesses that you should be aware of:

Tip 1: Stay Updated on Legislation Changes

The first step to staying on top of your payroll compliance is to keep up to date on changes in payroll laws. We recommend checking the HMRC website, as well as your local council’s website, regularly for updates.

If you use reputable payroll software, it should update you automatically on any payroll or tax law changes. You can also join professional organizations, associations, or newsletters to receive timely updates on legislative changes.

Tip 2: Use Payroll Software

One of the best ways to stay compliant with UK payroll laws is to use reputable, trusted payroll software that fits your needs and integrates with your business. To help you choose one, we’ve created a list of the top cloud-based payroll software solutions.

Integrating great payroll software into your business will allow you to minimize administrative burdens, automate the majority of your payroll processes, and stay on top of your payroll and tax obligations.

Tip 3: Maintain Accurate Employee Records

Maintain comprehensive and complete records of employee information such as personal details (such as names, addresses, and social security numbers), wage or salary agreements, benefits information, tax information, and more. Additionally, keep records of any changes in employment status or tax circumstances.

Tip 4: Ensure Timely and Accurate Payments

Make sure you pay employees accurately and on time, adhering to their contractual agreements and payroll schedule, as well as any legal requirements. Not only does HMRC require this, but it’s the right thing to do. Using payroll software will make this process straightforward. Make sure you pay any payroll taxes due on time as well.

Tip 5: Submit Real-Time Information (RTI) to HMRC

Use HMRC’s online PAYE system to submit real-time payroll and tax information. This enables you to check what you owe HMRC, pay your bill, view payment history, access tax codes and notices related to your employees, and more. We recommend familiarizing yourself with HMRC’s real-time-information (RTI) submission requirements and relevant deadlines to ensure you submit information on time and avoid any penalties.

HMRC also has a free payroll software solution, Basic PAYE Tools, for micro businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

Tip 6: Comply With National Minimum Wage Regulations

If you pay any of your workers minimum wage, ensure that you always comply with all applicable UK national minimum wage (NMW) laws and regulations.

Stay up to date with minimum wage laws, including the required minimum wages for different age groups or employment statuses. This will ensure that you’re compliant with UK payroll regulations and that your employees remain fairly compensated.

Tip 7: Handle Statutory Payments Appropriately

Statutory payments refer to employment benefits that your employees may be entitled to, including statutory sick pay (SSP), statutory maternity pay (SMP), and statutory paternity pay (SPP).

Depending on your contracts with employees, you may also be required to fund paid leave, retirement benefits, and more. These payments should be made to employees on a timely basis, and you should keep ongoing records of all statutory payments you make.

Tip 8: Conduct Regular Payroll Audits

It’s important to regularly audit your payroll practices to ensure you’re complying with all applicable regulations. When conducting a payroll audit, you should ensure that

  • Payroll is processed in full and on time
  • Employee and contractor personal information is up to date
  • Tax withholding and payment amounts are appropriate
  • Statutory payments (mentioned above) are accurate and paid on time
  • Contractual obligations with employees and contractors are upheld

Tip 9: Outsource Payroll Responsibilities

If you find payroll too cumbersome or difficult to administer and if you have the budget for it, you could consider outsourcing it.

The cost of partially or fully outsourcing your payroll can range from £2 to £25 per month, per employee, and remove significant administrative burden from your business. Take a look at our payroll outsourcing costs guide to learn more and get a quote for your business.

The Importance of Payroll Compliance

Payroll compliance is important for several reasons, as we explore below:

Maintaining Financial Health

Understanding and managing your financial situation is the key to keeping it healthy, and this applies to your payroll processes as well. Accurately managing your payroll processes can help you avoid unexpected expenses, cash flow issues, or other forms of financial instability.

Avoiding Penalties and Fines

Non-compliance with UK payroll laws can result in significant penalties and fines, as well as potentially severe legal action from HMRC or your employees. Non-compliance can also result in loss of employees and reputational damage to your business.

Protecting Employee Rights

Complying with payroll regulations ensures that employees receive the wages, employment benefits, and statutory benefits that they’re entitled to. It also minimises the chances of legal issues arising from complaints by unhappy or disgruntled employees.

Improving Trust and Morale

Complying with payroll regulations will increase the trust that both your employees and society at large place in your business. It demonstrates your business’s commitment to fairness, transparency, and professionalism, resulting in employees who are satisfied and committed to your success.


Incorporating the payroll compliance tips described in this article will improve your business operations, help you avoid legal issues, keep your employees happy, and help you maintain a healthy, positive reputation in your community.

To proactively manage your payroll compliance, you should ensure you understand UK payroll law, consider implementing payroll software into your business, maintain accurate records, pay employees (and taxes) on time, submit your information to HMRC, comply with minimum wage laws, remit statutory payments promptly, and finally, conduct regular payroll audits.

But if this all sounds like too much, there’s always the option of outsourcing payroll for a monthly fee, with various options available for different business types.

Payroll Compliance FAQs

What are the consequences of late payroll submissions to HMRC?
Late submissions of payroll information, or late payments of taxes due, can result in penalties and fines. These may be fixed or vary depending on the number of employees affected and/or the length of the delay in filing.
How often should I review my payroll processes?
You should perform a payroll audit or review on at least an annual basis or whenever a new payroll law is passed or a change in employment processes takes place. These changes can include employee layoffs, changes in employment type (employees versus contractors), or changes to minimum wages, benefits, or retirement plans.
What are some common errors to avoid in payroll compliance?
Some of the most common payroll compliance errors include filing forms late, payroll or tax calculation mistakes, failure to update employee records to reflect changes, and accidentally neglecting to comply with one or more payroll tax regulations. These can be minimized by using reputable payroll software to automate your payroll processes.
Written by:
David is a Certified Public Accountant and prolific finance writer, specialising in taxes, business accounting, and corporate finance. He holds a BSc in Accounting and has worked as a CPA, tax accountant, and senior financial accountant for several years. David has written and edited thousands of articles for millions of monthly readers, and has contributed to the likes of Investopedia, The Balance, OnPay, and now Expert Market.