For the next two weeks I’m taking over my younger brother’s work while he’s on holiday. It’s my turn. We work in the same office. Long story. Boring story. And the stuff I’m taking over is more boring still. It’s something that I used to do a few years ago – a payroll for a nursing agency. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Just a simple payroll. Well, when I tell you that it takes four days to do all of it and that it’s the most hideously complex thing known to man, I’m underselling how much of a job it is.
Nurses work shifts. They send in timesheets. They get paid for the shifts and the clients are invoiced. The clients eventually pay the invoices. Everybody’s happy. When I put it like that, it sounds easy. But there are different pay grades depending on how qualified the nurse has to be to work the shift, and each of these grades has four possible pay rates depending on the time and day/night it’s worked. And those pay rates, and indeed types of grade, change completely depending on where the shift has been worked. There are various profiles set up on a Microsoft Access database, through which the timesheet details are entered and reports printed out. We started off with only two or three profiles. Now there are shedloads of them, and over ten are currently active.
Different clients require different methods of invoicing. Some, for example, want to have one invoice per timesheet. Some require reference numbers to be provided for each shift, which necessitates searching for it on the agency booking sheet, or on a printout from the NHS. There’s mileage to take into account, too. There are different fixed mileages to each hospital and nursing home, depending on where the nurse is travelling from. Some will pay bridge tolls. Others won’t. Most pay 30p per mile, a couple only pay 20p per mile, some pay 0p per mile.
There are exceptions to most of the established rules (which reminds me of when I had to learn the conjugation of French verbs, back in the day), and these change periodically as the clients change and their requirements along with them. And all this stuff has to be remembered when entering the timesheets – what profile each site belongs to, the acceptable grades, the rates, the mileage, the exceptions, and even where new sites have to be manually added to the database each week to get around particular clients’ unique way of being invoiced. Nightmare.
Having not run the account for a while, going back to it today was like trying to ride a bike that had suddenly gained more gears out of nowhere; where the handlebars had been moved to the side and the frame was being held together with Pritt-Stick. Trying to keep everything in mind – what I needed to do for this, what do I needed to do for that – was a real juggling act. It seemed like there was always something else to remember.
Entering the 150+ timesheets, though (each of them covering up to a week’s worth of shifts), was only the start. The fun (read: not fun) really starts tomorrow, with the matching up. What’s that? Well, you’ll find out tomorrow in another thrilling blog instalment. Lucky you!