A cyber solution to wage rage

Ask entrepreneurs what they least like about being in business, and doing the books is likely to be near the top of the list, writes Roger Trapp.

No one knows that better than John Rutherford. He has created a successful business out of using technology to carry out this chore for scores of large companies. Now he is offering the same service to smaller firms via the internet.

The service, http://www. staffpay.net, was born out of the realisation that tax calculations and the like can appear highly technical and daunting to young and start-up companies. As a result, they are often left to the last minute or delegated to harassed employees.

Mr Rutherford is the founder of Rutherford Webb, a Surrey-based firm that has spent the past 15 years devising increasingly sophisticated payroll software systems for businesses as diverse as Legoland and Hoverspeed. In developing the new venture, he acknowledged that small firms would not be able to afford such expensive packages. Through the internet, though, they could hire them.

For as little as a few pounds a month, a small firm with net access can have employees' tax, National Insurance contributions, statutory sick pay and maternity pay calculated with ease. It can also use the service to keep the records required by the Inland Revenue and to monitor compliance with the Working Time Directive and minimum wage legislation.

Mr Rutherford stresses that data is held on the company's own web-server, rather than the internet itself, and is protected by "fire walls" and a range of other security devices. Moreover, all information is encrypted when it is being sent backwards and forwards between Rutherford Webb and the client companies.

Mr Rutherford has a special offer running until the end of the year that allows a business to get started with a setting-up fee of pounds 50 and then just pay pounds 1 for each payslip processed. After that, the initial cost is likely to rise to about pounds 75, with the price per employee remaining about the same.

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