Coronavirus disruption and peak holiday season outsourced cashiering support by Julian Bryan, Managing Director, Quill
At no time ever is the subject of business interruption more relevant than during the coronavirus pandemic and summer break. COVID-19 lockdown has been characterised by disrupted working practices for the majority of law firms. Peak holiday seasons are symbolised by people taking a short respite from work to enjoy some much-needed relaxation and fun with family and friends.
Both of these scenarios cause obvious problems for employers. With several key staff absent simultaneously, departments become short staffed or, worst case scenario, unmanned altogether. For smaller businesses particularly, the latter is an all-too-real possibility.
Holiday leave and additional absences such as sick leave, furloughing and shielding obligations mean that companies struggle to maintain normal operations with a skeleton staffing structure. This can compromise important compliance-orientated functions, cashiering included. There are certain routine procedures which simply can’t wait for staff to resume working.
That’s because firms have compliance-centric accounting timescales to meet – regular bank reconciliations, money movements between office and client accounts, and VAT return submissions amongst them – and depend upon a constant cash flow. Missed compliance deadlines, late bill production and delayed credit control driven by staff absence can impact compliance and cash flow, thereby accruing financial (and regulatory) penalties and sending bank accounts into the red.
What’s more, without the key staff in place, there’s limited access to the right reports to accurately monitor financial status, and a sudden glut of transactions in the return-to-work and post-holiday season catch up distorts forecasting and business planning.
A solution to this age-old business continuity problem comes in the form of outsourced support as these services are provided with guaranteed cashier support round the clock. This continuous service provision removes concerns about staff cover arrangements which are both a real hassle to organise and can be costly to pay for on top of existing salary overheads.
Instead, there’s complete peace of mind that a named cashier is keeping accounts in order, to a high standard, in line with the SRA Accounts Rules and other regulatory guidelines. And, if the cashier’s absent, an assigned deputy picks up the workload.
From a holidaying perspective, an extra complication is that management teams often want an overview of their practice’s financial position whilst they’re on annual leave. With many service providers, that’s achievable too as access is granted to the supporting cloud-hosted legal accounting software. These internet-based systems give secure, remote access capabilities so that accounts data can be safely observed from afar, including the back garden, beach or poolside.
By utilising outsourced cashiering support during these periods, compliance deadlines can be met and finances kept current because VAT returns are filed on time, accounts anomalies remedied as they arise, fee earner activity and disbursements billed upon request, and invoices paid when demanded.
Although thus far we’ve described permanent cashiering cover, another related way to avoid unexpected and holiday-time chaos is temporary support organised for a fixed term. Typically, it can be extremely difficult to cover for sudden staff absenteeism of any type. Thankfully, with temporary cashiering cover, both scheduled and unscheduled non-attendance can be catered for adequately.
Extended leaves of absence are seriously disruptive for legal practices and threaten their very survival should any breaches occur because of it. It’s reassuring to know, then, that emergency cashiering assistance can be instructed to overcome staffing challenges. Offloading the back-office cashiering function for a specified (or indefinite) duration is a viable and affordable option.
Where Quill’s concerned, our service is fully flexible, adapting to the changing needs of clients, to be scaled up or down according to requirements. In our experience, clients are so pleased with cover provided, they often try to make some subtle staffing adjustments to make things permanent thereafter.
Julian Bryan joined Quill as Managing Director in 2012 and was also the Chair of the Legal Software Suppliers Association from 2016 to 2019. Quill has been the UK’s largest supplier of outsourced legal cashiering services, and a leading provider of legal accounting and case management software to the legal profession for over 40 years.