Financial Operations & Controls relating to COVID-19

The Finance Division, and the services it delivers, covering management accounting, financial planning, payroll and pensions, accounts payable, income management, procurement and tax advice, continues to operate as normal despite the University shutdown due to COVID-19. The division’s staff and management team are all now working from home, contactable as usual including via telephone, e-mail, Skype or Microsoft Teams.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents the University with a significant financial challenge which we are working hard to manage. In that context, the need for effective financial operations and tight controls has never been more important.

Purchasing Controls

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its impact on University finances, the Executive Board has made the decision to tighten up our non-pay spend controls, including in relation to the purchasing of goods and services. This includes additional approvals for purchase orders, reduced transaction limits on purchasing cards, and a requirement for the relevant Executive Board member to support any purchase over £5k.

The University’s No Purchase Order, No Pay Policy, which makes purchase order our default transaction mechanism (detailing where exceptions are allowed, including where a purchasing card may be used), continues to apply.

Our Procurement Regulations, including competition/waiver requirements based on total estimated contract values and the associated approval requirements, also continue to apply.

Here follow some helpful FAQs in relation to these new controls. If you have any further queries then please contact accountspayable@le.ac.uk

Payroll/Payslips

I usually access my payslip electronically at work and I have access to University systems via VPN or Remote Desktop whilst I am working away from the campus.

Access to payslips continues to be available via Employee Self Service (ESS) on SAP.

I usually access my payslip electronically at work but I do not currently have access to University systems via VPN or Remote Desktop

Access to payslips is now also available via Employee Self Service (ESS) on SAP for all staff with a University IT account, who don’t have access to University Remote access (VPN) or University Remote Desktop.

I usually receive a printed payslip to my home address.

Access to payslips is now also available via Employee Self Service (ESS) on SAP for all staff with a University IT account, who don’t have access to University Remote access (VPN) or University Remote Desktop.

I usually receive a printed payslip to my work address.

Access to payslips is now also available via Employee Self Service (ESS) on SAP for all staff with a University IT account, who don’t have access to University Remote access (VPN) or University Remote Desktop.

I don’t have a payslip, will I still be paid.

The payroll is continuing to be run during the campus closure and if you were due to be paid you should be. If you have a query about your pay or you have not received a payment when you expected one please email payrollandpensions@leicester.ac.uk.

I need urgent access to my payslip, what can I do?

During these exceptional times Payroll and Pensions Operations are continuing to maintain business critical services. If you can wait for access to your payslip at a later date then this is very much appreciated and will allow us to concentrate on getting people paid.

If you still require urgent access to your payslip, e.g. to claim Universal Credit, to claim strike relief, for legal reasons, etc. please email payrollandpensions@leicester.ac.uk stating the reason why you need the urgent access and they will arrange for a copy of your payslip to be emailed to you.

How will I access my P60 if the campus is closed?

You can now access your P60 for the tax year 2019/2020 as normal via Employee Self Service (ESS) on SAP if you have access to University systems via VPN, Remote Desktop or an IT account. In addition P60s have been emailed to University email accounts for all staff and they can be accessed on your phone, tablet or home computer using the University’s webmail.

If you do not have access to ESS or a University email account we will send out hard copy P60s at a later date when the Payroll and Pension Operations Team are able to gain access to campus. For individuals without access to ESS or University emails and who require an urgent copy of their P60, e.g. to claim Universal Credit, for legal reasons, etc. please email payrollandpensions@leicester.ac.uk stating the reason why you need the urgent access and they will arrange for a P60 to be emailed to you.

I have a pay query.

Please email payrollandpensions@leicester.ac.uk as usual.

 

Helpful FAQs

Will I still be able to use my (department’s) purchasing card?

Whilst purchasing cards are not being cancelled at this stage, the general principle is that they must only be used to buy essential/urgent goods or services. The Finance Division will be increasing its monitoring of purchasing card spend to check compliance with this principle at this challenging time. The transaction limits on cards will be reduced to £1k per transaction and £5k per month, with blocks put on buying certain product categories such as office supplies, furniture and IT.

As staff continue to work from home in many areas due to the campus closure and operational requirement, staff are now able to collect their purchasing cards from campus and take them home using the Click and Collect service when available. Staff should ensure that the purchasing cards are kept secure at all times.

What should I do if I need to buy essential/urgent goods/services which the new purchasing card restrictions don’t permit?

The same procedure is in place whereby requests to temporarily increase limits for a purchasing card transaction are made to accountspayable@le.ac.uk, but now with the added requirement that such requests are accompanied by a supporting e-mail from the relevant member of the University’s Executive Board. Accounts Payable will apply the general principle that only essential/urgent goods or services can be purchased, and will forward to the Director of Finance for approval, and the Procurement Team so they can advise him

How will raising purchase orders be affected?

An additional approval stage is being implemented whereby the Director of Finance is required to sanction any order worth over £5k. Furthermore, the proposed purchase must evidence clear support from the relevant member of the University’s Executive Board. This can be demonstrated by forwarding the Executive Board member’s supporting e-mail to procurement@le.ac.uk, before raising the order. The Procurement Team will advise the Director of Finance on the merits of the particular purchase, given the general principle that only essential/urgent goods or services can be purchased and any existing related contracts.

Can I still use my University credit card?

Whilst credit cards are not to be cancelled at this stage, the general principle is that they must only be used to buy essential/urgent goods or services. The Finance Division will be increasing its monitoring of credit card spend to check compliance with this principle at this challenging time.

What is an essential/urgent purchase?

Given the significant adverse impact of COVID-19 on our finances, and that we don’t yet know the full extent of this impact, the default position is that only essential/urgent purchases that are required immediately to maintain the current reduced operations of the University, fulfil regulatory requirements or meet research grant conditions are permitted.

How are Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other purchases responding to COVID-19, to be made?

The purchasing of any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), or other products related to the University’s response to COVID-19, should be in line with the COVID-19 Information for Staff and follow the usual administrative/approval processes. The No Purchase Order, No Pay Policy applies, where a purchase order (rather than pCard) must be issued ahead of invoice, and the current arrangements/Mandatory Contracts should be used; PPE, Cleaning & Janitorial Supplies and First Aid Kits & Accessories are on the Soft Facilities category page, specialist laboratory PPE (including gloves) is on the Laboratory & Medical page, and Signs & Signage on the Estates page.

Should you have any issues with these current arrangements/Mandatory Contracts, or can’t find one that covers the goods or service you need to buy, please contact the Procurement Team (procurement@leicester.ac.uk).

To what extent can the usual procurement rules be bypassed due to urgency resulting from COVID-19?

The University’s Procurement Regulations, including minimum levels of competition based on total estimated contract values, continue to apply. The Regulations do allow for a fast track process for extreme urgency where certain criteria are met, and there may also be quick options such as calling off a framework agreement or varying an existing contract. In any event, the Procurement Team should be contacted, so they can assess the merits of the urgency claim and advise on the options available.

Will it be possible to commence or extend a Unitemps placement?

From 8th April 2020, all proposed new or extended Unitemps placements, for Colleges, must be approved by the respective HR Business Partner and Director of Operations, then the Head of College before the Unitemps Team process. For Professional Services, they must be approved by the respective HR Business Partner and Head of Division, then must be approved by the COO or Registrar & Secretary or CMO depending on who is the lead for the Division at that level, before the Unitemps Team process.

How is the University to support its suppliers at this time, including small and medium-sized enterprises, given these new COVID-19 cost controls?

The University is a good payer; regularly paying ahead of its standard terms of 30 days in arrears. Indeed, local (LE postcode) suppliers are paid 10 days in arrears, by default. At this time we will also be prioritising payments to the NHS and our major construction contractors and so, in turn, their supply chains. Beyond this, the Finance Division has intelligence indicating the level of dependency that each of its suppliers has on University business, which it can use to further prioritise payments. You can play your part, if you are a purchase order approver within the SAP finance system, by ensuring that all orders awaiting your approval within the system have been dealt with.

Do we know the extent to which our supply chains have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Procurement Team is in contact with the University’s key suppliers and regularly relays their latest position, including any extended lead times, to relevant stakeholders such as College Directors of Operations, IT Services and Here for U. If you have any such queries relating to suppliers on which you depend then contact the Procurement Team.

What should I do if a supplier contacts me claiming that the contract that it has with the University for goods/services must be changed or ended due to the disruption caused by COVID-19; for example, requiring a price increase or declaring the COVID-19 pandemic a force majeure event or claiming that the pandemic leaves the contract frustrated and so terminated?

The Procurement Team is in contact with the University’s key suppliers and regularly relays their latest position, including any extended lead times, to relevant stakeholders such as College Directors of Operations, IT Services and Here for U. If you have any such queries relating to suppliers on which you depend then contact the Procurement Team.

Will there be any problems with my supplier being paid due to them issuing paper, rather than electronic, invoices, now that staff are no longer working on site?

Yes, the University’s invoice processor has its staff working from home, and so all invoices must be sent, as a PDF, to uolinvoices@leicester.ac.uk. As always, the invoice must reference a University purchase order number, in line with our No Purchase Order, No Pay Policy.

How will monthly reporting, including the month end reconciliation process, be affected by the COVID-19 disruption?

It won’t be affected; it carries on as best as possible whilst we are off campus.

How will the annual financial planning process be affected by the COVID-19 disruption?

There is now a pause in the planning process for 2021-22, whilst focus is devoted to getting the University on as a steady a footing as possible for 2020-21, in line with development of COVID-19 response plans.

Will payroll be affected by the COVID-19 disruption?

No, it will continue as usual. If you have any payroll queries, email payrollandpensions@le.ac.uk.

Are there any tax implications if I have returned home, to a country outside of the UK, whilst the University is on shutdown?

There might well be, and so you should contact the Tax Office so that they can establish the tax position.