What Does a Payroll Clerk Do? Daily Routine & Essential Skills

Updated December 2022

Payroll clerks have one of the most important roles in any company: making sure people get paid accurately and on time.

And payroll clerks are in demand. Nearly every region of Manitoba gets four or five stars from the Government of Canada Job Bank for employment outlook for this career (five stars being the highest rating).

But a good employment outlook isn't the only reason to choose an occupation. Before you commit, you need more details about the role. Is it a good match for your interests and natural strengths?

You need to know what a payroll clerk actually does every day at work, and the skills you'll need to get hired.

In this post, we offer an inside look at payroll skills, responsibilities, and daily routine.

Find out what to expect on the job and how to get started with training.



If you become a payroll clerk, what sorts of tasks will you be responsible for on a regular basis?

Here's what a typical day looks like in this career:

☑️ Track employee hours and keep accurate records of leave and overtime

☑️ Calculate and verify employee earnings, including bonuses, commissions, and vacation pay

☑️ Subtract deductions like taxes, Employment Insurance premiums, pension plan contributions, and union dues

☑️ Issue statements of earnings

☑️ Process new hires, terminations, and salary raises

☑️ Prepare T4 tax slips and Records of Employment

☑️ Update employee banking info as necessary

☑️ Complete year-end reports and reconcile payrolls to bank statements

☑️ Answer employee questions

A quality accounting and payroll course teaches the payroll software, regulations, and technical skills needed to complete all of these tasks.



It takes a specific combination of skills to thrive as a payroll clerk. Here are the top abilities you need to possess:

☑️ Software proficiency

Every payroll clerk must have a solid grasp of the Microsoft Office suite of products.

You should be able to create reports in Word, develop and apply formulas in Excel, and organize and analyze data in Access.

You also need to be comfortable with accounting-specific programs.

Most companies look for payroll clerks who know how to use software packages like QuickBooks, Xero, Sage 50, or FreshBooks.


☑️ Math

You have to be good with numbers to succeed as a payroll clerk.

Most of the actual calculations are done by computer, but you still need to be savvy enough to spot any discrepancies or errors. Being able to do some quick mental math is key.

You'll spend most of your time working with numerical data. If math is your thing, this career path could be a good fit for you.


☑️ Attention to detail

You need to be a stickler for details. When it comes to payroll, even a tiny data entry mistake can have major consequences.

Let's say new employee Joe is supposed to earn $850 per week, but you accidentally input it as $580. Joe is expecting his first paycheque to be $1,700, but instead only $1,160 shows up in his account.

You must be diligent about double- and triple-checking everything to make sure all is well before the payroll goes out.


☑️ Discretion

As a payroll clerk, it's important to behave with integrity and discretion.

You'll have access to records that show each employee's age, salary, Social Insurance Number, bank account details, and more. That's highly sensitive information.

You need to respect privacy laws and keep the data confidential.


☑️ Communication and customer service

Payroll clerks constantly interact with people at all levels in their organizations. That requires solid communication and customer service skills.

Employees and managers may come to you with questions, and you need to have answers. You must be patient and courteous while you explain how the payroll system works or deal with any errors.

And when legislative or corporate changes affect people's pay or benefits, you need to clearly communicate the changes through memos or emails.



If you have the right set of skills, you can make a comfortable living in the payroll field.

According to the Job Bank, payroll clerks in Manitoba earn a median salary of $52,000.

The top-earning clerks make over $64,000.


WHAT TRAINING do you need to become a PAYROLL CLERK?

A college diploma is excellent preparation for this career. You can complete payroll training in less than a year.

Courses typically cover:

☑️ Fundamental payroll and accounting principles

☑️ Standard office and payroll software

☑️ Payroll processing methods

☑️ Calculating earnings, benefits, and deductions

☑️ Handling leaves and terminations

☑️ Dealing with government remittances and year-end processes

Your training should also include an internship. The internship is key if you don't have prior work experience in the field. 

It's a great opportunity to build your resume, learn more skills, and possibly get a job offer after graduation. Quite a few of our accounting and payroll grads get hired straight from their internship.



Ready to start learning the skills you need to become a payroll clerk?

Check out Herzing College Winnipeg's Accounting and Payroll Administrator diploma program. It runs for just 10 months and includes a six-week internship.

Training can be done online.

Graduates have landed jobs at Winnipeg companies like Great West Life, JR Accounting, Arctic Co-operatives Limited, and more.

Wondering if the program is a good fit for you? Talk to admissions. An advisor can answer all your questions about career options, courses, costs, financial aid, and how to apply.

Click below to get more details on the payroll program and chat live with an advisor. We're here to help!

Explore the Accounting and Payroll Administrator Program

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