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Internally processing payroll – what does the SCCO look for?

Recently our Amy Avory attended an Oral Review, before Costs Judge Whalan, seeking a review of work relating to the undertaking of payroll internally by the deputy / deputy firm.

The Oral Review was sought by A&M Bacon Ltd, on behalf of the deputy firm, for two different Court of Protection (“COP”) Bills which had both seen heavy reductions, to time spent upon dealing with payroll, on first assessment. Following the initial assessment by the Senior Courts Costs Office (“SCCO”), an informal appeal was lodged with the SCCO for both the respective COP matters to these assessing costs officers. At appeal, for both matters, no time was reinstated for the reductions made to the work relating to the undertaking of payroll. Accordingly, an Oral Review was sought on both matters. As both matters dealt with the same issue (i.e. heavy reductions to work in relation to payroll), the matters were listed to be heard together.

At the Oral Review, Amy managed to successfully reinstate time spent upon processing payroll for both matters. On the first matter, the time reinstated equated to a 55% recovery against the time that was initially claimed within the Bill of Costs (as opposed to a 44% recovery at first assessment). On the second matter, the time reinstated equated to a 69% recovery against the time that was initially claimed within the Bill of Costs (as opposed to a 42% recovery at first assessment).

Whilst this was a pleasing result, leading to one very happy client, there were also several lessons / key takeaway points that arose following the Oral Review. Amy has produced the below guide which details those key takeaway points, which we hope will be useful to deputy firms who undertake their own payroll and will also assist in maximising the recovery of such.  These may also provide some useful pointers in relation to other preparation work you undertake, particularly where the time claimed is high or frequently arises.

  • Attendance Notes

We all know that attendance notes are crucial to assisting in the recovery of costs claimed within a Bill of Costs (whether that be inter-partes or COP). But at the Oral Review, attendance notes (and well-kept attendance notes at that) really were the star of the show. Costs Judge Whalan, at the Oral Review, thoroughly reviewed the attendance notes to ascertain the level / nature of the work that had been undertaken in relation to the processing of payroll. The attendance notes in question were extremely thorough, and detailed every step that was taken by the fee earner when processing payroll (note some of the attendance notes spanned across 2 to 3 pages). It is this level of detail that aided our submissions, thereby persuading Costs Judge Whalan, to reinstate time. Moreover, for every single item / entry that was under review, there was a corresponding attendance note. This too aided in the ultimate success at Oral Review.

Our Emma Allkins recently prepared an article sharing her “top tips” in relation to attendance notes and how best to draft the same to ensure a maximum recovery – the link to the article can be found here: Keep track of the latest court of protection costs news (

  • Bill narrative / Item descriptions

As well as detailed attendance notes, the importance of a detailed Bill narrative / item descriptions also came in to play at the Oral Review. Costs Judge Whalan referred to the narrative / individual item descriptions often throughout the Oral Review to ascertain, not only the level of support / care provided to P, but why such an amount of time had been spent dealing with payroll as a consequence. Therefore, if you are drafting a Bill of Costs, or instructing your draftsman, where time has been claimed in relation to payroll, we would advise the following information is included within the narrative and / or items descriptions (where applicable and / or necessary):

  • The number of carers.

If P receives support from more than one directly employed carer, explain this in the narrative to the Bill of Costs; if it is evident more than one carer is employed by P, then the level of time spent dealing with payroll will be higher and thus is justified from the outset.

  • The frequency of support / carers.

Explain in the narrative the level of support P receives by employed carers (i.e. do the carers work X number of days a week consistently? Or is it ad-hoc care they provide? Is it night shift care they provide? Has the carer/s worked overtime etc.?

If such detail is included within the narrative to the Bill of Costs, this too will help justify the time claimed in relation to payroll. For example, if a carer has worked overtime, this evidently will require additional time spent on payroll as further hours have been worked that are ordinarily not the case and thus different calculations have to be undertaken.

  • Has the carer been awarded a pay rise?

If, throughout the general management year, a carer has received a pay rise, include this in the narrative. Again, this will justify the further time that would inevitably be spent by the fee earner when processing payroll.

  • Were the timesheets prepared by the carers handwritten, typed or a mixture of both?

When processing payroll, one of the very first steps undertaken by a fee earner is to review the timesheets provided by the carers to, firstly, ascertain the number of hours worked and, secondly, to ensure the information supplied is accurate. If, for example, timesheets are completed by hand, this evidently will require further time spent by the fee earner when reviewing such (as the information is not always legible and is more than likely to raise doubt as to the accuracy of such information). If it is a mixture of both handwritten and typed, then state this in the narrative as this will then aid justification as to why, potentially, a longer amount of time has been spent by one fee earner one month in contrast to the amount spent in the preceding month, for example.

  • Pension, HMRC tax contributions & RTI (real time information) / FPS (full payment submission)

If when undertaking payroll work, you also deal with any pension contributions, HMRC tax contributions and RTI / FPS, then explain this in the item description. It is not enough to simply state “processing payroll and incidental work relating to such.” each time work has been claimed in relation to the processing of payroll. Ensure that you specifically state that this encompasses work also relating to pension contributions, HMRC tax contributions, RTI / FPS. This will demonstrate, and reinforce, to the SCCO that processing payroll goes beyond merely entering figures into a software package, creating payslips and arranging payment.

Remember the more detailed the narrative / item description (or even attendance notes) = the higher the chance of recovering the time claimed.

  • Payroll being undertaken monthly

You will note at the beginning of the article, we were far more successful on reinstating time on the second matter as opposed to the first matter. This was due to the fact, for the second matter, it was evident to the SCCO that processing payroll was done on a monthly basis (to align with the payment of wages being on a monthly basis). On the first matter, whilst payroll was being undertaken predominantly monthly, there was further ad-hoc time claimed for undertaking payroll on more than one occasion within a month. In the SCCO’s eyes, undertaking payroll is a monthly task and thus it is far easier to recover the work if it is included as one entry on a monthly basis. Where there are ad-hoc entries relating to payroll, it raises doubt in the SCCO’s mind as to why this was being undertaken and how this progressed / related to the processing of payroll when such should only be done on a monthly basis. Of course, if there is a reason as to why work relating to payroll has been claimed more than once on a monthly basis, explain / justify this as best as you can (whether that be in the attendance note or in the narrative to the Bill / item description) to assist in the recovery of such work.

  • Delegation

It helped our submissions significantly that any work relating to payroll had been undertaken by a Grade D fee earner on both matters. This helped us demonstrate to the Costs Judge that the deputy was conscious of mitigating / protecting P’s costs as far as possible (as the lowest grade fee earner was undertaking this task).

So, if you are a deputy firm that undertakes payroll internally, we would advise that such work is delegated to a Grade D fee earner, or the lowest grade fee earner within the firm, as much as possible.


We hope the above has been of some assistance, especially if you are a deputy firm whereby you process payroll internally or are a Costs Draftsman drafting a Bill of Costs where such time has been claimed by the deputy firm.

At A&M Bacon Ltd our goal is to not only provide high quality COP Bills, but to ensure that the recovery of such is maximised as far as possible – whether that is at first instance at assessment, at appeal or Oral Review.

Should you have any queries arising from the above, please do not hesitate to contact us – we are always on hand to help.




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