How to create a payroll budget – Detailed guide, template & FAQ

Creating a payroll budget is a critical task for any UK business, whether you are a burgeoning startup or an established enterprise. A well-structured payroll budget ensures that you can meet your financial obligations to employees, comply with legal standards, and maintain the financial health of your business.


Video: Answering your common questions about payroll prices and costs

This comprehensive guide aims to walk you through the process of creating an effective payroll budget, offering tips, a how-to guide, template suggestions, and a detailed FAQ section.

Understanding payroll budgeting

Payroll budgeting involves predicting the costs associated with employee compensation over a specific period. This includes salaries, benefits, bonuses, taxes, and any other employee-related expenses. The goal is to accurately forecast these costs to ensure the company can meet its financial commitments without overspending.

Step-by-step guide to creating a payroll budget

How to make a payroll budget

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  1. Gather historical data

    Start by collecting data on past payroll expenses. This includes everything from gross salaries to additional benefits and taxes. Historical data provides a baseline for your projections.

  2. Consider future changes

    Account for any planned changes in the upcoming period, such as salary increases, new hires, or changes in employment legislation that could affect payroll costs.

  3. Estimate taxes and benefits

    Calculate the employer’s portion of taxes and benefits, such as National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and pension contributions. These can significantly affect your payroll budget.

  4. Incorporate additional costs

    Factor in other payroll-related expenses, such as overtime, bonuses, and any other compensation your company offers.

  5. Adjust for turnover and hiring

    Anticipate changes in your workforce, including potential turnovers and new positions that may need to be filled. This will help you adjust your budget to reflect realistic staffing levels.

  6. Review and adjust

    Once your initial budget is set, review it periodically and adjust as necessary based on actual spending and any changes in your business.

Tips for effective payroll budgeting

  • Use software tools: Payroll and budgeting software can streamline the process, improve accuracy, and help you make informed decisions.
  • Plan for contingencies: Always include a buffer in your payroll budget for unexpected costs or changes in your workforce.
  • Stay informed about legislation: Keep up-to-date with changes in employment laws and tax rates that could affect your payroll costs.
  • Engage with departments: Collaborate with different departments to understand their staffing needs and any anticipated changes.

Payroll budget breakdown – What to include?

  1. Salary Information: The base salary or hourly wages for each employee. This forms the core of your payroll expenses.
  2. Bonuses and Sales Commissions: Any performance-based payments, including annual bonuses and commissions from sales, should be estimated based on historical data and future targets.
  3. Overtime: Estimated costs for any overtime work, based on past trends or anticipated busy periods.
  4. Taxes and NICs: Employer’s National Insurance Contributions and other taxes that are a direct cost of employing staff.
  5. Pension Contributions: Both the employee and employer contributions to pension schemes need to be factored into the budget.
  6. Sick Pay, Maternity Pay, and Other Statutory Payments: Any expected costs arising from statutory leave entitlements, such as sick leave or maternity/paternity leave.

Other costs to consider

  1. Temp Workers: The cost of hiring temporary workers to cover for absent staff or additional demand.
  2. Recruitment Fees: Expenses associated with hiring new staff, including advertising positions and recruitment agency fees.
  3. HR and Payroll Software: The cost of software solutions that streamline payroll processing and HR management. Or, if you’re not planning to run payroll in-house, this might be the cost of outsourcing.
  4. Pension Setup Costs: Initial and ongoing costs associated with setting up and managing pension schemes.
  5. Insurance: Employer’s liability insurance and any other relevant insurances that protect the business and its employees.

Payroll budget template

A basic payroll budget template should include the following elements – we’ve laid this out in tables so that you can easy re-create as an Excel xlsx spreadsheet file or Google Sheet:

Employee NamePositionSalary/WageProjected RaisesBonuses & CommissionsOvertimeTaxes & NICsPension ContributionsStatutory PaymentsTotal Payroll Cost
Payroll budget spreadsheet template – Page 1

Additional costs section

(To be calculated separately and added to the total payroll budget)

Cost TypeEstimated Cost
Temp Workers£XX,XXX
Recruitment Fees£XX,XXX
HR and Payroll Software£XX,XXX
Pension Setup Costs£XX,XXX
Total Other Costs£XX,XXX
Payroll budget spreadsheet template – Page 2

Final thoughts

Integrating all these components into your payroll budget ensures a comprehensive view of your personnel-related expenditures. By meticulously planning for both regular payroll expenses and additional costs, your business can better manage financial resources, ensuring sustainability and growth.

Remember, a detailed payroll budget not only helps in financial planning but also supports strategic decision-making by highlighting potential areas for cost savings or investment in human resources.

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FAQ for payroll budgets

How often should I review my payroll budget?

Review your payroll budget at least quarterly to ensure it remains aligned with your business’s financial performance and staffing needs. Adjustments may be necessary due to unforeseen changes in your business or the regulatory landscape.

What is the biggest challenge in payroll budgeting?

The most significant challenge is accurately forecasting costs amidst a changing business environment, including turnover, legislative changes, and economic fluctuations. Staying informed and flexible is key to managing this challenge.

Should I budget for payroll taxes at the employee or employer level?

You should budget for both. While employee taxes are deducted from their wages, employer taxes and contributions (e.g., NICs, pension) are additional costs that must be accounted for in your payroll budget.

How can I reduce payroll costs without cutting salaries?

Focus on improving operational efficiencies and employee productivity. Consider offering non-monetary benefits or flexible working arrangements that can enhance job satisfaction without significantly increasing costs. See our guide to cutting payroll spend.

Can software help with payroll budgeting?

Yes, payroll and budgeting software can automate many aspects of the process, reduce errors, and provide insights that help with decision-making. It’s an investment that can pay off in both the short and long term.

How can fluctuating exchange rates affect my payroll budget for overseas employees?

Fluctuating exchange rates can significantly impact the payroll budget for overseas employees due to variations in the amount of home currency needed to meet salary obligations in a foreign currency. It’s advisable to include a buffer in the budget for such employees and consider using forward contracts or other financial instruments to hedge against exchange rate risks.

Should I include freelancer and contractor costs in my payroll budget?

Yes, it’s important to include the costs of freelancers and contractors in your payroll budget, even though they are not traditional employees. These costs are part of your total labour expenses and need to be accounted for to ensure accurate financial planning and reporting.

How do I budget for employee training and development?

Estimate the costs of training and development programs based on past expenditures, planned initiatives, and any identified skills gaps within your workforce. Include these estimates as a separate line item in your payroll budget to ensure you allocate sufficient resources for employee growth.

What is the best way to account for potential salary increases when budgeting?

Use historical data on salary increases within your industry as a guideline and consider your company’s financial performance and future salary review policies. Factor in a percentage increase across all salaries as a placeholder, adjusting as necessary based on individual performance reviews and promotions.

How do benefit costs factor into payroll budgeting, especially with varying employee enrolment?

Benefit costs can vary significantly depending on employee enrolment choices. Estimate these costs based on current enrolment rates and planned changes to benefit offerings. Regularly review and adjust these estimates as employees join or leave your benefit programs.

Can overtime be predicted accurately in the payroll budget?

While predicting the exact amount of overtime can be challenging, you can make educated estimates based on historical data, industry trends, and known peak periods. Monitor overtime closely and adjust your budget as needed to reflect actual overtime costs.

How do I manage payroll budgeting for a seasonal business?

For seasonal businesses, payroll budgeting should reflect fluctuations in staffing levels. Plan for peak seasons by estimating the increased payroll costs based on previous years and adjust for off-peak periods accordingly. This might include budgeting for temporary or part-time workers during busy seasons.

What strategies can help reduce payroll budget errors?

To reduce errors, use accurate and up-to-date data, implement payroll and budgeting software, involve multiple departments in the budgeting process for cross-verification, and regularly review and reconcile budget estimates with actual expenditures.

How should unexpected payroll expenses be handled?

Maintain a contingency fund within your payroll budget to cover unexpected expenses such as unplanned overtime, bonuses, or sudden increases in staffing needs. Regularly reviewing and adjusting your budget will also help manage these unforeseen costs more effectively.

Is it necessary to revise the payroll budget during the year?

Yes, it’s essential to periodically review and revise the payroll budget throughout the year to reflect any changes in staffing, compensation, or business strategy. This ensures that the budget remains accurate, realistic, and aligned with the company’s financial health and objectives.

Creating a comprehensive payroll budget requires a clear understanding of your business’s financial and staffing needs, along with a proactive approach to planning and adjustments. By following the steps outlined above, leveraging software tools, and staying informed about relevant laws and regulations, you can create an effective payroll budget that supports your business’s financial health and strategic goals.

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