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Oracle payroll system causes underpayment of Next staff

Oracle’s payroll HR software module seems to be at the root of a systematic underpayment of staff at retailer Next

Next has apologised to staff for underpaying them because of the retailer’s implementation of a payroll system provided by Oracle, according to The Sunday Times, which broke the story.

Payment problems reportedly emerged in February 2022, affecting employees paid on weekly and monthly cycles. They have been underpaid by as much as £200 a month, according to The Sunday Times.

The Guardian, which has also published the story, reported that Next “usually designs its own software, but has struggled to make Oracle’s software work with its own. Instead, it has been forced to assign a dedicated team to try to spot errors and pay the missing money to workers every week”.

Payroll is widely seen, among HR software market watchers, as the cinderella of the sector. It has not had the investment attention from suppliers as have comparatively “sexier” areas, such as talent management, recruitment and continuous learning.

As Computer Weekly has previously noted, about one-third of medium to large-sized organisations are using on-premise systems to automate their payroll processes, while 34% have moved to the cloud. And a 2019 survey of 251 UK HR and payroll managers in private sector companies with more than 1,000 staff, conducted by Censuswide, revealed that 52% were still using spreadsheets as part of their payroll process, while just over one-third relied on paper-based timesheets.

For user organisations, payroll software is an area of high anxiety. Employees do not appreciate not being paid, and care less if their employer’s continuous learning software module misfires.

One longstanding Oracle customer, which became the first public sector body to adopt the supplier’s suite of business applications in the cloud, is Lambeth Borough Council. Hamant Bharadia, assistant director of finance at Lambeth Council, recently told Computer Weekly that when the council was looking, in 2017, at moving its applications to the cloud, Oracle came out ahead of SAP in terms of breadth and depth of functionality, especially in relation to financials, while Workday was still in its infancy.

However, even with Oracle, payroll was not yet there in the cloud, and in the end, it was the last module to be implemented, in May 2018, while everything else went live in March of that year. The council also experienced an initial glitch with payroll, which affected some senior managers as well as rank-and-file staff. Out of about 3,500 employees, 350 were not paid on the day they should have been.

Oracle dealt with the glitch promptly, and everyone was paid within two days, said Bharadia in a wide-ranging, forthcoming interview about the modernisation of the council’s applications stack.

Oracle declined to comment on the Next story when contacted by Computer Weekly. Next has yet to respond.

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