Guidelines for payroll professionals

South African companies as well as many global multinationals are increasingly seeing the rest of the continent as an attractive growth target.

No matter what particular business model they adopt in the target country, they are likely to find themselves seconding specialist staff to their in-country operations. In general, these expatriates would remain on the payroll of the South African or parent company.

Making salary payments to an employee working in another country raises a whole set of inter-related issues that payroll professionals need to consider carefully.

While not exhaustive, the following are some of the key areas to think about:

Draft a cross-border remuneration policy

Chances are there will be more than one employee affected, so it is critical that the company has a policy in place that sets out the principles relating to how the company deals with employees working across borders. The policy should protect the interests both of the company and its employees. Many of the subsequent points would be integrated in the policy, as well as in the individual employee contracts. A payroll professional would be best suited to advise business owners on what this policy should look like.

Ensure that the employee is not disadvantaged by his or her secondment

One important principle is that the employee should not be financially or otherwise disadvantaged by the requirement to work in a foreign country. At a practical level, this means considering carefully what the tax rules in the host country are tax rates might be higher or tax compliance more complex as well as the terms of the double taxation agreement between South Africa and the host country (if there is one).

An added consideration here would be to consider how much time is expected to be spent outside of the Republic, and the impact this would have on tax. For example, it might be that the package is structured based on the fact that the employee is expected to be exempt from paying tax in South Africa because he or she is out of the country for more than 183 days in aggregate, 60 of which are continuous, in a 12 month period.

Thought needs to be given to the impact of the employee forfeiting this tax exemption by having to make an unplanned trip home, either for business or personal reasons. If deemed a South African resident by SARS, an individual would be liable for normal taxes, including PAYE, and this could be hugely negative if the exemption condition is not met. How to handle such unexpected events should be covered in the policy.

These kinds of complexities, and the fact that the unexpected could happen, means that many companies actually opt for simply paying a home nett salary and taking care of the employee’s tax themselves on behalf of the employee. Although this approach has the virtue of simplicity, it must also be recognised that SARS will treat this payment of employee PAYE as a payment of the employee’s debt. This is seen as a taxable benefit in the hands of the employee and thus increases the employer’s the cost of the employee.

Structure the reward package carefully for tax compliance

While ensuring that the employee is not disadvantaged, it is equally important that his or her cross-border package complies with the tax regimes in both countries. In practice, employees on secondment are usually paid a premium in the form of a hardship allowance or similar subsistence allowance, and this should be structured in a way that is beneficial to the employee while remaining tax-compliant in both countries. Both employee and employer need to fulfil their tax obligations to the host and home countries, and tax evasion should be avoided as it is a criminal offence.

Give thought to medical aid and evacuation

While an individual is on secondment in a foreign country, he or she would need to continue paying South African medical aid in order to avoid late joiner penalties. Late Joiner Penalties may be imposed on members over the age of 35 if they have not belonged to a medical aid before, or if they have had a break of more than 90 days from a medical aid. Depending on the number of years that they have not belonged to a medical aid, a late joiner penalty will be added to the member’s monthly contribution and worked out as a percentage of the contribution based on the total number of years a member has not been on a medical aid since the age of 35 years. But he or she would also need medical cover in the foreign country. Who pays for this, and what are the arrangements if urgent repatriation for medical or other reasons is indicated?

Does the employee’s death benefit cover cross border deaths?

Death is normally not a topic that forms part of general discussions, but an employer needs to make sure that the policy in place to cover death covers cross border eventualities. An employer might find themselves in trouble if such an event occurs and the employee was not covered outside the borders of South Africa. Ensure that proper precautions are in place as this can also result in an increase to the cost to the company.

In conclusion, it should be apparent that this a complex area, and the payroll policy needs to be robust in order to cope with different eventualities. My advice would be for business owners to work closely with a registered SAPA payroll practitioner that specialises in cross border remuneration structuring to understand the issues fully, and to structure the company policy and individual employment contracts.

One might find that the cost to the company is much higher than budgeted for as the secondment could result in unanticipated costs if not thought through thoroughly before drafting both the business contract and the employee contract.

Nicolette Nicholson is the Director at South African Payroll Association (SAPA).

What is the impact of Cloud backups on data?

In the connected society, Cloud adoption is increasing at a phenomenal rate. Linked to this growth is the fact that cloud backup has been absorbed into the disaster recovery plans of many organisations.

But even though much has been written about its benefits, what has the impact been on the way we approach data?

From a backup perspective, the Cloud essentially provides an extension to more traditional methods such as tapes and disks. With so many companies embracing a virtualised environment, the advantage of having organisational data available at an offsite location through Cloud backup compliments this effectively. But using the Cloud does not necessarily mean company data is more accessible or even meets legal requirements.

So while there is a clear temptation to embrace the Cloud for every aspect of business, decision-makers need to get a better understanding of how this is impacting on compliance requirements and how they use data before rushing in.

Granted, not too many articles have been published of directors being sued or dragged into lawsuits around the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPi). Yet, despite the lack of repercussions for non-compliance, now is the best time to get the systems and processes in order to ensure the Cloud backup provider used meets with regulatory requirements.

Companies need to be mindful that how they use the Cloud for backup has a direct impact on the level of availability and compliancy required.

The impact on the SLA

Some businesses use the Cloud as a way of providing an alternative location for company data. Others who have already migrated everything to the Cloud, rely on an additional hosted solution for disaster recovery and business continuity reasons.

However, there is a lot more to business continuity than just the data itself. The real-time nature of business in the digital world means that companies cannot afford to use providers that are too slow or do not perform according to certain service level agreements (SLAs).

Of course, de Bruyn argues, the biggest mistake any organisation can make is to assume that SLAs cover data and its availability.

In the 24x7x365 business cycle, no company can have the luxury of not having access to their critical back-end data. While certain data selections might not necessarily fall under the scope of high availability, others do and not being able to have those Cloud backups restored within minutes might cause the organisation considerable reputational and financial loss.

In extreme cases, companies might never recover from this and be forced to close down. One of the most difficult things to get right is for the business and the Cloud backup provider to agree on how its data is valued and what steps can be taken in the event of a failure to restore files within the agreed-upon parameters.

Network improvements

Even though improvements have been made, the speed and accessibility of bandwidth are not yet ideal in South Africa and the rest of the continent. And while better mobile infrastructure and the expansion of WiFi throughout the country have taken place, companies need to examine how they use connectivity and what impact this has on access to cloud backups.

Irrespective of these challenges, South African businesses have embraced the Cloud for their data backup requirements. This is especially the case when it comes to extending their disaster recovery capabilities beyond those offered by on-site solutions.

The rise in data usage has also seen the tempo in business increase with employees collaborating more than in the past. There is a myriad solutions available that harness the power of enterprise data. In some aspects, the Cloud is providing an important mechanism for this as it opens new channels of access to decision-makers.

People are no longer reliant on accessing mission-critical data from their desk. Instead, the mobility landscape has resulted in expectations increasing for access to wherever they are using any range of devices. The security concerns of the cloud have given way to creating more cost-effective ways of linking employees to data.

SME growth

Small to medium enterprises are leading the charge when it comes to Cloud backups. These business owners realise what is possible and the Cloud provides them the peace of mind they need to remain focused on meeting strategic company objectives.

Not too long ago, effective disaster recovery was not possible from a cost-perspective for these smaller businesses. The Cloud has changed that. Now the mobility and flexibility the Cloud provides means data can be analysed and benefitted from wherever there is cellular or Wi-Fi reception.

Using Cloud backup solutions in a time where data forms the DNA of any business, requires a considered approach. It definitely provides a backup alternative to the offline copies of old. Yet, the business needs to evaluate exactly how it matches requirements for efficiency and availability.

Phillip de Bruyn is the Customer Experience Manager at Redstor.

Work/life balance – reality or myth?

How often have you heard people talking about work/life balance and have you wondered whether this really exists?

The dictionary defines the word balance as “a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” Looking at this definition it would be fair to wonder whether there is a point at which there is balance between work and the challenges this creates and personal life, family and wellbeing. Perhaps accepting that “balance“ is an unrealistic expectation and it would be more appropriate to describe the aim to achieve a state of “harmony”.  Harmony has different meaning to each person and if the aim is to achieve “work/life harmony”, this will be different  for each person and will vary as circumstances change.

What can you do to find your harmony?  It is well known that the battle with all the challenges executive management throws at individuals brings with it much stress. Not only is it the anxiety of meeting the goals of our work, but at the same time being concerned over the wellbeing of our families that causes stress and the destruction of work/life balance.

The stress this creates has significant impact on performance and also on personal health and makes the work/life goal become a vague unachievable desire. Emails, cell phones, key performance indicators and demands of bosses are just some of the factors that executives in modern businesses have to contend with. Studies have found that there is an expectation that people need to respond to emails at all hours of the day, whether this is during work hours or not. The expectation may be there, but does this mean you should passively accept it?

Realise that these demands are often unreasonable, and unless there is a crisis, resisting dealing with work issues outside of normal work hours is something you should strive to do. Consider switching off your cell phone, your tablet and your computer when you are not at work. Many people have a private cell phone that they leave on all the time, so they can pick up and respond to personal matters. Should you have a boss who expects you to be on call at all times, resist this and discuss this with your boss and point out that you need your own personal and family time. This is not always simple, because some bosses feel very strongly that their staff work for them 24 hours a day. This is not an acceptable attitude and don’t just accept this attitude, seek a give- and- take solution.

Your family should be a very important factor in your life. Take care that you do not justify working unreasonable hours on the basis that you are doing this for your family, to earn more money so that you can better take care of them, afford to pay for high quality education, buy a bigger and fancier house, drive smarter cars and go on exotic holidays.

Consider whether this is what your family really want from you, or is more of “you”, your time, your love and your attention that they seek.

Have you ever thought how important it is to your child that they have you there to watch them playing sport, representing their school, or performing in the school play, playing the musical instrument they have been practicing for hours, at a school concert or just being able to spend quality time with their parent?

Your children and family want you, not just the money you are earning and most importantly they want you healthy and alive. A memory of a successful parent who died being successful is not what your children and family will value.

An executive handling a stressful job involving extensive travel and many late nights, needs time out to regain their strength and sanity. Taking personal time is not something that you should feel guilty about, it is rather a case of feeling guilty if you fail to create “personal time” This time can take on varied forms; going to the gym and working out; going for a run, a walk or a cycle ride; playing or listening to music; meditating; engaging in a yoga session; working in your workshop; repairing a motor car or anything that will take your mind off the work stresses and allow you to recharge your batteries.

You may be thinking that this all sounds very nice and idealistic, but with the huge work load and high expectations that the organisation has of you, these “soft” matters are just pipe dreams.

This may be your perception, but if your aim is to achieve a successful, well balanced life, don’t allow yourself easily to fall into the trap of “I have to focus on my job before anything else and if I find time I will deal with “soft“ issues”. Rather than adopting this stance, look at what and how you are conducting your job. Questions such as “ is it essential that I do this, or is there somebody in the company who I should delegate it to, because it is actually their job?” “Do I need to attend all the meetings I am invited to?  What will I gain and what will I add to the meeting by attending or would it be better for me to have someone from my team attend and put forward the views and opinions of our department or just listen so that the department can be aware?” “If I take an hour or two to go and give my child the pleasure of performing whilst I am watching, even if I have to find time to do a task I would have been doing, won’t this be time well spent?”

Sensibly and pragmatically asking and answering these questions will often result in looking at things differently and consequently doing things differently and ultimately move closer to achieving “work/life harmony”. It is worth a try!

Les Weiss is a Partner at Change Partners.

How to address mental health in the workplace

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), one in five South Africans will experience a form of a mental illness in their lifetime.

October has been declared Mental Health Awareness Month with the objective of reducing the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health illness. Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and job stress affect many employees — a fact that is usually overlooked because these disorders tend to be hidden at work. It is vital that mental health is entrenched into wellness programmes offering employees supportive and confidential assistance.

The World Health Organisation defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease. So it is important that employers ensure that their employees are truly healthy across all spheres not only for healthier employees, but also for the company’s financial health.

According SADAG, less than 16% of sufferers receive treatment for mental health illness.

Due to the stigma attached many employees may be reluctant to seek treatment, especially in the current economic climate  out of fear that they might jeopardize their jobs, so very few South Africans seek treatment for their mental disorders.

As a result, mental health disorders often go unrecognised and untreated, not only damaging an individual’s health and career, but also directly impacting a workplace through increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased costs.

Employees who were depressed at work were reportedly five times less productive than employees who were not depressed.

Mental health problems are the result of a complex interplay between biological, psychological, social and environmental factors. There is increasing evidence that both the content and context of work can play a role in the development of mental health problems (in the workplace).

The ‘healthier’ the work environment, the healthier the employees. Just like with physical illness, the symptoms and severity of an illness can worsen in tense and unhappy work environments. An employee wellness programme is beneficial for your employees to better cope with stress.

High stress levels have been linked to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and can also lead to substance abuse. In severe cases, these problems can lead to a person becoming suicidal.

South Africa already has high rates of substance abuse and the South African Association of Social Workers in Private Practice estimates that up to half of all workplace accidents are related to substance abuse.

Employee wellness programmes need to be proactive and promote the mental health of workers, and to ensure that mental health problems are recognised early and treated effectively.

Employees and employers should think of mental health care as an investment, one that’s worth the up-front time and cost. And as a country we need to talk openly about mental health to remove any residual stigma and ensure we have a healthy and productive nation.

Wellness programmes are no longer a “nice to have” in the workplace but have become a cornerstone in maintaining a healthy and productive workforce. Employers of choice have well-entrenched wellness programmes that are tailor-made for their specific population.

Dr Fathima Docrat is a Medical Advisor at Alexander Forbes Health.

5 funding options small & medium businesses can consider

Risk and reward are the fundamentals of every business. In the small & medium business segment, this cannot be more true.

For start-ups and existing small entities that need to grow, capital or cash flow funding is often what’s needed to make sure the business can either get going, survive or flourish.

Before knocking on a potential funder’s door, they need to answer a few questions. How much money does a business actually need? The rule of thumb is that less is best. A business owner also needs to evaluate factors such as revenue, their willingness to use personal assets as collateral, gearing business assets and the option of selling equity in the business.

Once the business owner has understood the implications of these decisions, there are a few funding options that can be considered.

1. Explore an overdraft facility with a bank

Securing an overdraft is a quick, easy and flexible way to access cash. The downside is that the interest rate is not always very competitive.

2. Investor funding (selling equity)

These loans are not based on the entrepreneur’s equity, but rather on a feasibility study that looks at the potential success of the business, an audit on the current management skills, and whether or not funding this business is a risk worth taking. The downside is that investors seek out an equity stake in the business and may want some managerial control.

3. Invoice factoring

In any business cash flow is king, and when there are many outstanding invoices and the bank account is drying up, selling these to an invoice financier, who will assume the debt and pay the value of an invoice minus a fee, is an option. This will not only give a business owner access to cash in the bank, but also reduces the profit on these invoices as there are fees involved.

4. Government support

Government grants for small business development are available and there are also other departments like SETA who offer rebates for skills development projects and internships. The advantage of these is that small businesses don’t need to repay the financing received. The potential challenge is that there is a lot of competition in the market from other entrepreneurs who also want to access this funding. In addition, the criteria for accessing these grants may be onerous.

5. Small business loans

The value of loans offered by banks and financial institutions are limited by the security which the business owners can offer. These are usually property, fixed assets, and insurance policies. The downside is that the financial institution who provides the loan has no interest in the success of the business, so traditionally no ongoing business support is provided.

Steven Cohen is the Head of Sage One International (Africa, Australia, Middle East and Asia).

Still not moving to the Cloud?

Bringing your analogue business to today’s digital markets is the equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Just a few short years ago, we in the technology industry were touting Cloud computing as the latest and greatest competitive advantage for progressive companies. Fast-forward to today, and it now seems like Cloud migration is more of a hygiene factor than a competitive differentiator.

Simply put, if you’re not already moving your IT estate into private, hybrid or public Clouds, you’re going to fall behind in the coming years.

Markets are digitising, they’re globalising, and they’re coalescing into each other, or splintering apart in interesting new ways. And these market shifts are changing the rules of the game for everybody.

Netflix started life as a DVD rental company, then became a video streaming service, and is now spending $5billion a year on creating original movies and TV series. Nintendo’s modern-era began with console games, before launching a new realm of motion-sensor technology with the inventive Nintendo Wii. In its most recent ‘pivot’, the immersive augmented reality game Pokemon Go, it hauled in $200 million in just its first month.

There’s a litany of reasons for these firms’ successes – from culture, to leadership, to strategy. But from a technology perspective, boundary-pushing companies like Netflix and Nintendo all share one common principle – flexible, scalable Cloud architectures that enable the rapid expansion of services, to millions of users.

These two firms have truly leveraged the power of Cloud computing. But, in fact, in every industry you’ll find examples of digital cavaliers, quickly gobbling market share from slower-paced incumbents who’ve been entrenched for decades.

Failing fast, failing forward

Cloud-based digital tools and assets allow organisations to create new routes to market, insert themselves into new value chains, and address entirely new customer segments and geographies. They help the organisation to better understand changing market dynamics, influences and trends – and to respond with speed and decisiveness.

The Cloud also enables faster, lower-risk experimentation with new strategies, products or services. If a prototype proves successful, then it can be scaled up to achieve commercial value. And, if it’s unsuccessful, then it can be quickly shut down and the team can move on to explore other ideas – it’s a principle we refer to as ‘failing fast, and failing forward’.

With the real-time data streams that Cloud computing makes possible, businesses can fine-tune every aspect of their operations – making minor tweaks where the data points to improvement opportunities. Perhaps the data leads you to make changes to the production schedule, to change supplier relationships, or to change the tone of the marketing campaign, for instance.

We talk about a Cloud-centred business being a blend of both art and science. This is the true beauty of the Cloud: it unleashes the creativity of the creative types, to dream and to design. At the same time is provides a platform for the more left-brained team members to form methodologies, gain control, and ultimately make ideas commercially-viable.

In fact, the science of big data might reveal opportunities, for creatives to find an innovative solution to capture that market opportunity.

Now, imagine an analogue business trying to compete, without all of these Cloud benefits?

Taking the plunge

Despite all of the Cloud’s compelling advantages, migrating part or one’s entire IT estate to the Cloud often entails incredible complexity, uncertainty and cost. These concerns tend to cause inertia in decision-making, particularly in larger, more entrenched businesses, or those in protected and slower-moving industries.

Some traditional businesses are so consumed with the day-to-day grind of simply ‘keeping the lights on’ that they hardly have time to think about future-proofing their enterprise technology. And others still are remaining relatively successful – for the time being – without having made any serious attempt at digital transformation.

But the question is, for how much longer will this last?

For large organisations, Cloud migrations are certainly complex and scary. But there are ways to manage the risks and costs, and become more certain of success. It generally starts with a comprehensive evaluation of your IT environment, and a very sharp understanding of your own business, your market, your customers, and your competitors.

Find a trusted technology partner, one that’s helped other firms through the process of Cloud migration, and is willing to shoulder much of the risk and provide guarantees in terms of both costs and business returns. Once you’ve selected the right strategy and the right partner, commit to the transition and pour all your energy into making your Cloud migration a resounding success.

As we see with the likes of Netflix and Nintendo, Cloud-based organisations have one crucial advantage over their more traditional peers – the ability to continually reinvent themselves, serve new customer demands, and respond to ever-shifting market landscapes.

The time is now. Take any longer, and you may never catch up.

AJ Hartenberg is the Portfolio Manager: Data Centre Services for T-Systems, South Africa.

How to mentor and manage Millennials

One of the prerogatives of the older generation is being able to talk disparagingly of the younger generation.

Plato was said to have complained that young people “disrespect their elders” and “ignore the law”. Peter the Hermit complained that the younger generation “think of nothing but themselves” and “are impatient of all restraint” (1)

Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, also known as Generation Y, are stereotypically described as ‘entitled, lazy and materialistic’. As opposed to relying on common stereotypes; Jennifer Deal of the Centre for Creative Leadership and Alec Levenson of the University of Southern California, gathered data from 25 000 Millennials and from 29 000 older employees from 22 countries, concluded in their book “What Millennials Want From Work” (2), that most generalisations about Millennials as employees are “inconsistent at best and destructive at worst”. Their findings can be summarised as follows: “Fundamentally, Millennials want to do interesting work with people they enjoy, for which they are well paid, and still have enough time to live their lives as well as work”.

Nothing is more important for an organisation’s survival than recruiting and retaining the next wave of talent. To get the most out of workers, it may be wiser to put more emphasis on rewarding individual performance and providing clear paths to career progress. Most employees, regardless of when they were born, want to be given interesting work to do, to be rewarded on the basis of their contributions and to be given the chance to work hard and to get ahead. So too with Millennials.

The question then becomes; ‘What do Millennials want from work and how do organisations give it to them’?

Most organisations have three primary goals for their talent management strategies:
1. Attraction;
2. Engagement; and
3. Retention.

The three dimensions for consideration, which could help organisations achieve the above goals with regard to Millennials, are:

The People: (Friends, Mentors, Team, Bosses)

Friends: Structure the workplace environment so Millennials can develop friendships with co-workers and have positive relationships with mentors, team members and bosses.

Mentors: Set up mentoring programmes and educate managers on taking on mentees who are different from themselves. This promotes diversity.

Teams: The teams that Millennials work with are the ones that can make or break Millennials’ ability to get their jobs done right. Therefore team leaders need training and support to lead effectively.

Bosses: It is common cause that people don’t leave bad organisations; they leave bad bosses. Managers at all levels need to listen and observe; trust and be trustworthy; set goals and hold Millennials accountable; provide mentoring, coaching and support; and be authentic.

The Work: (Interesting, Meaningful and Balanced)

Interesting: If the work is interesting, it doesn’t require a lot of convincing by management to make it palatable. Also make sure Millennials are clear on the business reasons for the tasks that they find boring, and show how what they do contributes to the organisation’s objectives. Encourage Millennials to provide ideas to improve work processes, and provide opportunities for Millennials to engage with customers and stakeholders.

Balanced: If Millennials feel that they have no time to live their lives, they will leave. Set up systems so working off site is productive. Allow for flexible careers and smooth out spikes in workload.

Opportunities: (Feedback and Communication, Development, and Pay)

Feedback and Communication: Millennials want to know what they need to do to be successful. At the same time, they don’t want to be micromanaged. Approach them with guidance and coaching, not command-control dictates. Provide feedback as a normal part of the workflow, not as an annual event.

Career Development: Provide good development opportunities, or they will go elsewhere to find them. Help Millennials realise that they will learn most, on the job. Make it clear that development is about growing in the position as much as it is about moving on to the next promotion.

Pay: The more transparent you can be about your organisation’s pay practices, the better. Understand that whilst compensation pays the bills, it is also a measure of value and self-worth. Pay transparency is increased by what’s online, but the quality of information can be very poor.     

Sundra Naidoo is a Partner at Change Partners.

1 “Myths About Millennials”, The Economist, 1 August 2015
2 “What Millennials Want From Work”, Jennifer Deal and Alec Levenson, 2016.

Your Cart