Jason Davenport, CEO of the CIPP, reveals why it’s time to invest in your payroll department 

Payroll is an almost invisible yet crucial element of the global economy. Teams of dedicated individuals deliver the right pay at the right time to millions across the world, playing a huge role in the success of nations and ensuring global business runs smoothly. In the words of Jason Davenport, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP): “It should be celebrated every time you get accurately paid, shouldn’t it?” 

Spearheading an appreciation for the intricate work undertaken by payroll professionals is a priority for Jason, who arrived at his role in July 2023. As the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals in the UK, the CIPP is ideally placed to support this aim, as it works with payroll specialists throughout their careers. Offering an advisory line, membership magazine, discounted training, events, and guidance for members, it is there as a vital source of information and assistance. Furthermore, it partners and collaborates with HMRC’s policy team on consultations and think tanks to represent members and the wider industry. It offers neutral consultancy services, as well as a Payroll Assurance Scheme (PAS).

Jason Davenport, CEO of the CIPP.
CIPP Tutor Trains Day
Radisson Blu – East Midlands Airport
©Steve Pope

Given the critical nature of payroll compliance and the risks associated with non-compliance, the training and educational element of the CIPP’s work is vital. “With legislation changing every year, it is essential to ensure your payroll team is qualified and their skills are up to date. Our members can call us for advice, access news online and get regular updates from emails and our magazine. There are multiple ways we are here to support our individual members, including our Payroll Assurance Scheme or PAS,” elaborates Jason. 

PAS offers compliance health checks for payroll processes and procedures in relation to legislation, to avoid penalties. Whether you’re a large business that’s undergone a complicated merger or an SME that wants to ensure your small payroll team is operating under today’s requirements, the CIPP team will review payroll practices, and provide a status report. “This can range from a ‘well done, this is great’ to a ‘you must put these actions in place to make sure you are compliant’,” Jason adds. 

If the client does find they need assistance, the CIPP is there to support them. “In the UK we have over 6500 members, but I know that there’s over 100,000 people involved in producing payroll,” Jason asserts. “I want to reach employers whose staff might be running payroll alongside other roles and let them know that we can help. There are a lot of businesses out there that may not be compliant, not deliberately so, just by virtue of not understanding how and when to apply the rules. 

“There are staff delivering payroll without any formal qualifications, and from a compliance point of view, it is vitally important to support them. Investing in educating staff mitigates the risk of non-compliance and expensive mistakes. 

“I can even give you an example where a staff member believed they were doing the right thing, but it could have had disastrous consequences. Tax ‘K’ codes were coming through (which are typically for employees with company cars, who need to pay extra tax for that benefit). Not realizing the significance, the individual was removing the K codes and returning them to standard tax codes. This is totally wrong and was creating a bigger problem further down the line. When the tax catches up, it will really hurt somebody. With taxes, it always catches up – you can’t ignore it.” 

The CIPP facilitates learning at every stage, from level 3 admin right up to level 7 strategic, leader qualifications for industry, as well as delivering training when and how teams need it. The CIPP also delivers timely updates around significant changes such as the UK Budget or an election. Education around payroll (not just its implementation but also as a career) is a topic close to Jason’s heart and one he intends to promote as CEO. “We have had our Royal Charter since 2011 and have offered individual chartered membership since 2017,” he explains. “We have developed a career progression for payroll professionals in alignment to what you can do with accountancy, so that our most senior members are positioned with the same status as other careers associated with royal societies. It helps recognize the industry itself and the professionals within it, with the level of respect they deserve for the work that they’ve done. 

CIPP Graduation 2023Birmingham Symphony Hall
©Steve Pope
CIPP Graduation 2023
Birmingham Symphony Hall
©Steve Pope

“A lot of what we’re doing right now is about designing the qualifications that suit the needs of the customer,” he continues. “The way we consume content is changing and there is a desire to learn online rather than in a classroom and consume bite size amounts of information rather than a lot at once. 

“I also want to help new entrants into the market understand payroll as a career choice. Many find themselves in payroll via accounts, but our message is that this is a rewarding career option. We have been working with young people on explaining all the elements of a payslip, for example, to give them insight into what goes into payroll.” 

He continues with some insight gained from his years working with payroll professionals. “Staff in these roles tend to be compliance driven, very conscientious in making sure things are right and with an overall desire to support the business. When businesses invest in these staff with enhanced training and qualifications, it really pays dividends. There’s a real two-way relationship – when you value your teams and invest in their learning, the benefits are returned to you.” 

The learning is also delivered via a calendar of events, where the CIPP provides updates on upcoming legislation or changes, and these provide opportunities, either online or face to face, for members to come together and create a network. “We also have a full residential two-day conference, which includes an award ceremony. There are different categories, and individuals and teams from across the nation put themselves forward for consideration. It’s a way of us coming together and celebrating achievements and recognizing the efforts of everyone in payroll.” 

One hot topic on today’s agenda for payroll professionals is data analysis and of course the CIPP has addressed this need. “Every business is measuring costs, and payroll represents a huge contribution to business expenditure. This course has translated across to the UK from America because everyone now needs to understand that data analysis approach, to find out how much payroll is costing, and whether it is efficient,” Jason comments. 

Having noted the American origins of this course, Jason goes on to note that the CIPP has strong ties with associations in America, Canada, South Africa, and Australia, with shared networking and collaborations around common issues. “The intricacies are different in each country but there is an overarching, consistent perspective of collecting taxes in a standard manner. So, while we may be at a different kind of maturity, we spend a lot of time talking to counterparts in other countries about what’s hot and what’s not and putting them in touch with a contact if they need specific help. 

“We also have what we call a memorandum of understanding with HMRC, where we are seen as a ‘critical friend’. They will ask us to give feedback on possible effects or impacts before changes are launched into the marketplace.” 

The CEO of HMRC, Jim Harra, recently acknowledged to Jason the critical role that payroll plays at a macro level, in ensuring the correct taxes are collected for national economic plans to be delivered. “This is at the same time as the micro level, meaning individuals can pay their bills and plan their own future,” added Jason. 

“I was speaking to the CEO of a payroll services company recently at the opening of their new payroll service center, and I was able to acknowledge the essential work done by that team and say well done and thank you. They are not celebrated enough!” 

Looking back at Jason’s career reveals a period spent running his own payroll consultancy and this experience makes him ideally placed to deliver the newly relaunched consultancy arm of the CIPP. Further extending its educational reach, the CIPP consultants go into a business, discuss the current set up, their future plans and help them deliver the necessary roadmap. 

This includes advice on technology, which, given the huge range of providers and software available, can seem daunting for businesses looking for solutions without in-house expertise. “We deal with all the providers in the UK at certain levels and can help clients through the process to find exactly the solution they need. That might not be the huge name with the masses of functionality, it might be something much more specific that provides just certain elements, like being on the HMRC approved list. 

“Knowing we’re a neutral, trusted advisor, gives clients confidence in the information they are getting,” Jason reassures. “Having an independent view means we don’t have an agenda or solution to promote – we genuinely want the best decision that ensures correct, accurate delivery of payroll. We can also take some of the emotion out of these decisions, by looking purely at what is best for the business and how we structure it for development in the future.” 

While payroll may still be the unsung hero of the business world, it plays a critical role in the success of today’s commercial environment. As Jason concludes, with the CIPP on hand to advise, educate and assist, now is the time to ensure this indispensable department gets the attention and investment it deserves.   

If you would like to discuss PAS with the CIPP, become a member, or have any other queries about payroll education or compliance, visit