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Physical Paychecks
Does anyone use physical paychecks anymore? Some do. Let's look at what you need to know when issuing them.

What Are Physical Paychecks?

Physical paychecks are paper checks written by employers and given to employees. Employees have to deposit the paychecks themselves. Although it's far more common to pay using direct deposit, some employers choose physical paychecks for a variety of reasons.

Should Employers Issue Physical Paychecks?

Just like every other question an HR professional might ask when it comes to writing policies and processes for their employer, it depends. Particularly for very small businesses, it may be cheaper and easier to use physical checks. There is no right or wrong answer, but here are some things to consider.

Benefits of Physical Paychecks

  • Privacy. Paper checks allow employees to remain more private, as they do not have to provide any kind of bank information to an employer.
  • Accessibility. Not all employees have bank accounts, which means direct deposit doesn't work for everyone.
  • Assurance. By paying an employee with a paper check at work, you are assured that the employee has received their pay. While most direct deposits are secure, things can happen at banks that either delay funds or send monies to the wrong account. Providing an employee the paycheck directly makes it easier to verify that they have received it, when they have received it, and that they've been paid the right amount.
  • More personal. One underrated fact of giving employees physical paychecks is the interaction the manager gets to have when handing the check to each employee. It is an opportunity to thank the employee for their hard work and dedication. It gives the manager an opportunity to validate the employee for their contributions and to show that directly by providing them their pay.

Downsides of Physical Paychecks

  • Takes more time.The amount of time it takes to print out the paychecks and deliver them to each employee (whether in person or by mail) takes longer than paying employees via direct deposit.
  • Costs. On top of the time spent producing physical paychecks, other costs include printing costs, a machine that can print the paychecks, paying an employee to print and package the checks, and delivery costs. All those add up and aren’t costs you have to worry about if you pay via direct deposit.
  • Easy to lose. Paper checks can be lost. An employee could misplace their check or have it stolen. If mailed, it could be mailed to the wrong address. If checks are lost, more time and money has to be spent voiding the check and producing a new one for the employee.

Methods of Issuing Physical Paychecks

There is no right way to distribute physical paychecks. Here are a few different methods.

Manager Gives Check to Employee

As mentioned earlier, physical paychecks provide managers the opportunity to hand employees their pay. Payroll prints the paychecks and gives them to managers to distribute to employees on payday.

Mail Checks

With this method, the payroll team prints paychecks and mails them to employees' home addresses. This may be the most costly and time-consuming, as you have the costs of printing out checks as well as the mailing costs and the time it takes to mail out the checks. In addition to this, you need to verify that the employee's home addresses on file are updated and accurate. This may be the least secure method, as you cannot verify that the paycheck has been received.

Deliver to Employee’s Mail Slot or Desk

An employer might opt to do this if they need to get paper checks out fast. Once the payroll department prints the checks, they are distributed to the employees' mail slots (if they have one) or to their desk directly. This one can be tricky if not everyone works at the same location or if it is a large workforce. You don’t have to worry about verifying an employee's home address, which saves time. It can be inconvenient for employees who aren’t working the day checks are distributed to stop by the office to pick their check up.

How Do Employers Issue Physical Paychecks?

If you do decide to pay your employees with physical paychecks, you need some kind of payroll software. You’ll also need to make sure that this software allows paychecks to be printed.

Step 1: Process Payroll

Before you print any paychecks, you need to process payroll so you have the employee’s net pay, gross wages, and all payroll deductions. All that information will be stored in the payroll software and should be printed off in a readable format when you choose to print checks.

Step 2: Print Checks

Your payroll software will specify the type of check stock paper you need. After you have verified that your printer is set up correctly, start printing out checks. You should immediately place each check in an envelope and label it to avoid sending the wrong check to someone. Verify that every check has been printed.

Step 3: Deliver Checks

After all the checks have been printed and put in a labeled envelope, you can start delivering them in whatever way you've chosen.
Topics
Tanner Pierce, PHR

Tanner Pierce, PHR

Tanner has over 4 years of HR professional experience in various fields of HR. He has experience in hiring, recruiting, employment law, unemployment, onboarding, outboarding, and training to name a few. Most of his experience comes from working in the Professional Employer and Staffing Industries. He has a passion for putting people in the best position to succeed and really tries to understand the different backgrounds people come from.
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