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Same title, different level?

Background: I am responsible for payroll, but I also report to HR and do have some HR duties as well. My assistant enters new hires (and payroll) based on what she is told to do (by others in HR).... she doesn't question anything. We have an all in one HR, Benefits, Payroll and T&A system.

Years ago when I was entering the information myself, we had separate modules that didn't really talk to each other, so we also had validation tables set up so that Job A was always a Level 1. HR would give me a change and say that Employee 1 should be a Job A but a Level 2. That was one way that I would catch errors (and it happened more than it should have).

Fast forward, because our modules all talk to each other, we don't necessarily have to use validation tables anymore and things can be changed at the employee level. So now we can have several different employees in Job A, all with different Levels. And our job descriptions do say Level 1 - 3 based on experience. My argument is how do I know that HR is really listing the correct level (see last sentence of previous paragraph). And how do I explain why Employee 1 is a Level 3 but Employee 2 is only a Level 1 when a manager asks me?

Up until now, I've been able to keep everything tied to the validation tables, but my boss wants to eliminate the tables. So I guess my question is - is this the way other companies handle titles and levels as well? How does the person inputting the information know (or do they have to trust) that the information is correct? And how do you explain it when asked? I know that when I question the HR person responsible, I'm going to get a blank stare and an "I don't know" with a shrug of the shoulders (because that's what I always got before).

Maybe I'm wrong and it won't be an issue, but I would like a better response than "because that's what HR put on the form".

Thanks for your help.


  • Legally, there is no such thing as job titles and levels. Whatever your company wants to do it can. Not all ideas are good ones however. I have worked for companies where HR had strong opinions on this things, but at the end of the day, we are just talking about HR's opinion. Not law. Not something that matters to The Powers That Be.

    Whose in charge? If you are in charge, do whatever you want. If someone else is in charge, do whatever they want.

  • Thank you. I understand. I'm definitely not in charge - the Head of HR is, and we ALWAYS do things her way (right or wrong); but I try to keep the errors to a minimum if at all possible (which is part of my job - as handed down by the Head of HR). It just doesn't look good when TPTB ask why and I can't explain.

  • Is there any documentation on what the levels actually mean? Are they comp related to different Ranges or places on a range?

    Sounds like a comp plan to me
  • Agreed it sounds like a comp plan and I generally like the concept of written comp plans. HOWEVER, we have already established that the poster is not the person in charge of plans and policies and he/she has one good choice here, and that is to do what he/she is told. Not all companies have competent HR departments. If the person actually in charge wants to make this stuff up as they go along, then that is THEIR decision.

  • yeah, but if they make it up as they go along, they are really setting themselves up for an illegal discrimination claim based on all sorts of protected classes -- especially if they have no specific basis. OUCH - and you know how much I hate bad HR departments LOL

    Honestly I feel for the OP....all I would say is to send the manager questioning it to HR since they are the one that decided the level. I would also cya and print out a list of the discrepancies and forward it to the HR department with a note that these discrepancies have been found and ask how they would like them to be handled.

  • You can generally suggest to a boss ONCE that this is what we should do. However, there comes a time to shut up and do what you are told (or look for another job). Patty used to ask people "is this the hill you are ready to die on"?

    Past that, we are talking HR's opinion, and even good HR people (I have met a few) often do not agree. I am not saying do not have opinions, but do not confuse opinions with facts (or laws). If I tell HR that IRS says the employee is supposed to file out W-4s and have their income reported on W-2s, this is law, not my opinion, no matter how strongly certain HR people have argued otherwise. I have meet HR people (and bosses) who seem very confused on this point. We have a President of the United States who is perhaps confused on this point.

  • We do have a comp policy, which talks about the value of each job, the salary ranges, how to progress within the range, etc. It does not define the actual salary range (min, mid or max), or titles/levels that would be tied to those ranges.

    Each salary range is assigned a level, and each job description is tied to a level which has always been assigned by outside salary consultants. The job description is assigned the level by outside consultants and HR. However, I am noticing now that the newer job descriptions also have a salary level range (IV - VI depending on experience), but I'm not sure if that is coming from HR or from the consultant.

    I admit, I am concerned with a possible discrimination complaint.

    Thanks for your input, I appreciate it.

  • Just to be clear, a comp policy is someone's "opinion", not a "law". It sounds like you are not sure about whose opinion it is. I am not saying this is not worth fixing. I am saying that you need someone senior to take ownership of this issue and absent that, you are just spinning your wheels. Some senior people like mess.

  • Yes, I am unsure as to whether the level range issue is an HR opinion (I tend to think it is) or the consultant's recommendation, but I do understand it is still opinion and not law. And yes, I understand that I'm spinning my wheels as I don't have the support from my boss.

  • I will try to be gentle as sometimes I am pretty direct -- being both HR and payroll, I am willing to offer the opinion that it is usually a combination of both. If the company has paid to bring in a consultant, then generally they follow their advice/setup as it should give them some arm's length perspective. (The large HR consulting firm I worked- one of the top 3 in the world- with had a whole section just for Compensation studies and is very common and honestly the setup you are writing about is also very common)

    And in the end, those above HR in finance/budgeting, etc should be the ones who oversee whether the comp policy follows the corporate philosophy on compensation. Honestly, it doesn't matter whether it is HR's opinion, the consultant's recommendation or a combination as long as TPTB are okay with it and support it.

    at this point, being in payroll, you have to be able to "not see" pay discrepancies (as long as it isn't in error or you see a pattern of what you feel is discrimination but honestly from your viewpoint I am not sure you have enough data to fully evaluate that ). Make sure you have backup to cya in any changes you personally make to the employees levels or pay. Other than that, you have to be able to let it go, or you will start hating your job. Not everyone is capable of seeing and forgetting what they feel is unfair/inequitable,etc.

    You might consider looking into a CEBS certification called "compensation management specialist" if this really does interest you. It could be a great career move out of payroll and into something else.

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