back to article BACS Bank Holiday BALLS UP borks 275,000 payments

Potentially millions of employees expecting to be paid ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend have been left without their salaries due to a cockup with the Bankers' Automated Clearing Services (BACS) payment system. The issue mainly appears to be affecting HSBC customers, which has blamed BACS. An HSBC spokeswoman said: "We are …

  1. BenBell
    Unhappy

    I feel sorry for

    Payroll Administrators.. I've heard a few people in the office flip their s##t (so to speak) over wages not landing this morning... and it's not the companys (or payroll dept's) fault.

    1. John G Imrie

      Re: I feel sorry for

      Don't companies have a legal duty to meet their payroll.

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: I feel sorry for

        Legal duty? What's that got to do with something beyond their control? How else are they meant to pay them, it can't be cash, cheque would clear a week after they got it and they could be paid by BACS quicker on a second attempt anyway.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I feel sorry for

          How else are they meant to pay them, it can't be cash

          Dare explaining why? What exactly prevents the company from sending a payroll clerk to the bank (+/- couple of hired goons from G4S) drawing the sum in cash and handing it out.

          That was the normal procedure for centuries and somehow suddenly it is impossible. Oh, I get it, nobody wants to assume the responsibility for ordering that. Well... that as far as legal obligations does not fly, so you in fact can sue your company for failing to meet the payroll even if it is bank's fault.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: I feel sorry for

            My employer ran a dummy payroll for emergencies each month in parallel with the normal one

            That's some crazy prepared right there. I am not sure many small businesses would want to do that.

            What if the payroll hardware was ALSO down?

          2. Naughtyhorse

            Re: can sue your company for failing to meet the payroll even if it is bank's fault.

            But it's a pretty fucking stupid thing to do.

            cos for A) there is less than zero chance of winning in 'n' years time when it gets to court.

            and for B) you'll find yourself at the back of any good queue, and the head of any shitty queue until they find a way to sack your ass.

          3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: I feel sorry for

            So, lets say your company has 200 employers, paid an average of £1500 a month, what you're saying is that their local bank should keep £300k in cash just in case they can't pay their employees via BACS. Oh, and then do the same for the other 20 or 30 companies that use that branch? Sounds totally sensible to me...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I feel sorry for

              40 years ago I worked in a bank when cash payment was much more common. One day I got a call from a neighbouring branch.. "We're short of £10 notes for the [local car factory] payroll could you spare some of your stock?". I told them I'd got £10,000 - "OK never mind, we need £250,000"

          4. Oscar

            Re: I feel sorry for

            The cash left the employers' accounts .. its just that it never arrived at the employee's. Any money given to the employee now will need to be clawed back later ...

          5. jacksonj04

            Re: I feel sorry for

            Ever tried walking into a bank and withdrawing £20,000 in cash?

            1. Frank Bough

              Re: I feel sorry for

              Yeah, I got 5 years.

            2. DaddyHoggy

              Re: I feel sorry for

              Just once - the deposit for my house - which, due to a cock up by the other party's solicitor, left me just a few hours to hand over a wodge of cash as the only way to actually complete on my property. I rang my local branch - said I was coming in - that I'd have photo ID to prove who I was - they didn't flinch at the amount.

              An hour later - I identified myself at the counter and they gave my entire life's saving in a few bundles of pre-wrapped £20 notes...

              (this was '97 - perhaps there was more cash in the system almost 20yrs ago)

            3. Naughtyhorse
              Joke

              Re: withdrawing £20,000 in cash?

              Although on reflection the shotgun and balaclava was a bit of a mistake....

            4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

              Re: I feel sorry for

              Ever tried walking into a bank and withdrawing £20,000 in cash?

              Sure, I used to do it regularly 20 years ago in Eastern Europe before the electronic transfer system was opened to mere mortals. In fact, I have done it for much bigger sums too. The amount for which the bank used to ask for prior notice in those days was the equivalent of 50k.

              However, checks never worked there - they went from cash straight to electronic payments. As a result they till this day use cash more than us and cash machines tend to be loaded with more dough too.

          6. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I feel sorry for

            Interesting idea but with a couple of potential issues:

            1, Small companies may not have the cash flow available to make two payroll runs in the same month. (It appears that the money has been debited from the HSBC accounts, just not arrived at the destination accounts)

            2, How much cash do you think an average bank branch keeps on the premises? Even for a medium sized business the monthly payroll can be >£250K.... (see also point 1!)

          7. Quip

            "drawing the sum in cash and handing it out"

            I do remember, about fifty years ago, when paid-in-cash in those little brown envelopes was the norm. And the regular news items about yet another wages snatch. I all got far too expensive. Today, being paid in cash is not all that helpful given you really need to take it to a bank and pay it in in order to meet all your DDs and SOs etc. I worked for a small company thirty years ago that still paid in cash or (as I really insisted) cheque: get paid today, wait until the middle of next week before the money could be credited to your account

        2. Bob Dunlop

          Re: I feel sorry for

          "it can't be cash"

          I'd love to go back to being paid cash in hand, and paying HMRC 18 months in arears.

          PAYE is just a con to get the money from you quicker.

          1. Tzhx

            Re: I feel sorry for

            > I'd love to go back to being paid cash in hand, and paying HMRC 18 months in arears.

            Sadly, being paid cash doesn't mean cash-in-hand.

        3. Don Dumb
          Boffin

          Re: I feel sorry for

          @Martin Summers -

          What's that got to do with something beyond their control? How else are they meant to pay them, it can't be cash, cheque would clear a week after they got it and they could be paid by BACS quicker on a second attempt anyway.

          Don't know who has the legal liability but speaking as someone who worked in a payroll office a decade ago. Payroll teams can pay people with same day payments using a system called 'CHAPS' (don't know what the acronym stands for). It's a relatively high level of effort required for each payment so it isn't something that can be done for too many people. Therefore a small payroll team could have sorted it for their employees this morning and the employee's bank would have the money by mid-afternoon.

          However, the difficult thing would be that on Tuesday the BACS payment would hit the employee's account, so they have now been paid twice and then you then have to get the money back. This is always really hard for both the payroll droid and the employee. It's probably better for all to simply underwrite any fees or liabilities the employee has due to late salary payment rather than try and get a second payment out today.

          1. Graham 2

            Re: I feel sorry for

            I think it comes down to cost; BACS transactions are pretty cheap but CHAPS transactions are expensive (it's what lawyers charge you a not small fortune for when buying a house). I suspect the issue here is that HSBC have arsed up their identifier which is why a. It's not quick for HSBC to fix and b. Despite their Teflon shoulders it'll still be HSBC's f**kup rather than BACS'

      2. BenBell

        Re: I feel sorry for

        Yes they have a legal duty to process payrol on time and send the payments to the bank.

        ...if the bank/bacs/whoever then c0ck it up and the money doesn't make it through to the account - its not exactly the companys fault.

      3. Small Furry Animal

        Re: I feel sorry for

        @John G I,

        Yes they do, but the failure here is not theirs. They have made a best effort. So it's no use shouting at the payroll minions. A swift call to your bank (who will be aware of the HSBC/BACS failure) will solve the liquidity problem and HSBC/BACS will be liable to pay any charges or losses incurred by you.

        How do you like it when your network goes down and everyone starts shouting at you even though the fault was caused by some dickhead with a JCB?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I feel sorry for

          It doesn't matter that the employer is not at fault. HSBC have the paid agreement with the employer not the employee. The employer still has an obligation to it's workforce to sort out this mess.

          My employer ran a dummy payroll for emergencies each month in parallel with the normal one and our monthly payslips informed us what our emergency pay would be if this was used. Our pay failed to arrive one month due to a BACS failure but we received our emergency pay the following day paid through a different bank.

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: I feel sorry for

            It doesn't matter that the employer is not at fault.

            So, what you are saying, is that you think it is perfectly reasonable to bring a civil case against someone for something that is demonstrably not their fault, and which you acknowledge is not their fault. Lawyers must love you, idiots like you are their bread and butter - they still get paid even when you lose the case!

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: I feel sorry for

            "HSBC have the paid agreement with the employer not the employee."

            From the report it doesn't seem clear whether this is the case or not. If it's employees banking with HSBC then it's the other way around.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I feel sorry for

      The banking system is quite good at dealing with this sort of thing. If you ring your bank and ask they can override the system and 'give' you money that hasn't arrived yet, reconciling the mess after the payment has come through next week. You should have no problems getting access to the funds now with a quick phone call.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. BillBelfield

      Re: I feel sorry for

      HSBC. The banks do get blamed for perceived systemic failures in their payment systems, these services do cost a huge amount in both money and resources to maintain and secure from threat, and in this case I guess it's failed safe, not payments siphoned off.

      What is annoying is consumers want all the benefits of digital banking at no cost and none of the risk.

      I don't work for HSBC by the way!

  2. AndrueC Silver badge
    Joke

    Alternative headlines: BACS to the wall. Payroll BACS up.

    1. Small Furry Animal
      Pint

      "Alternative headlines: BACS to the wall. Payroll BACS up."

      Groan! +1 for that

      ... and it's nearly beer o'clock so...

      1. DPWDC

        "... and it's nearly beer o'clock so..."

        but no wages to pay for it :(

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ... and it's nearly beer o'clock so...

        In the good old days this was beer o'clock. Sadly the tradition of drunken slumber over a keyboard all Friday afternoon is now all but gone (although I'm not sure if that's true in journalism).

    2. LucreLout Silver badge
      Joke

      Bankers Bacs Borks Businesses Bankholiday Break. Bunfight Begins.

  3. Ole Juul

    The bank could close for a month and I'd be OK.

    This just reminds me of parts of my life where I was living beyond my means and couldn't keep cash on hand without spending it. I'm now an old aged pensioner, but have learnt to save my money before I spend it and don't put all my savings in the bank specifically because they're troublesome and sometimes (like this) unreliable. I'm probably a bit of a trowback.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: The bank could close for a month and I'd be OK.

      Yes, you're an OAP, which means you were working, and earning, at a time where reasonably paid employment was available for pretty much all, property was affordable, and for those who couldn't afford to buy a house, rent and bills didn't consume the majority of your take-home earnings. Well done, you're comfortable. Maybe considering doing something to help those who aren't so lucky as to be in your position, rather than gloating about it, because for the younger generation now, the situation certainly is NOT the same.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The bank could close for a month and I'd be OK.

        you're an OAP, which means you were working, and earning, at a time where reasonably paid employment was available for pretty much all,

        Loyal Commenter, you don't half spout some s#it. As a proportion of economically active adults, UK unemployment hasn't been below 5% for three decades, and has averaged around 8% for most of that time.

        I'm not sure what makes you think that the past three or four decades were some magical period of easy jobs and high living standards, because they certainly were not.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The bank could close for a month and I'd be OK.

        @Loyal Commenter

        You seem to be taking a lot for granted there.

        I don't know about Ole Juul's situation but I do know what mine was. And that the "reasonably well paid" & all that meant as far as I was concerned, that for years I arranged bank statements to be sent in the middle of the month so I could see how bad things were & what was left for the rest of the month. And very often the amount was negative by the end; maybe the only thing different back then was you seemed to be able to get away with that without penalty payments. I know it contributed a good deal to the stress I suffered at that time & from which I still suffer.

        There seems to be an assumption by one generation that things were much easier for the previous one. I don't think it was.

      3. Ole Juul

        Re: The bank could close for a month and I'd be OK.

        @ Loyal Commenter said:

        Yes, you're an OAP, which means you were working, and earning, at a time where reasonably paid employment was available for pretty much all, property was affordable, and for those who couldn't afford to buy a house, rent and bills didn't consume the majority of your take-home earnings.

        That's just a bunch of bullshit that you made up! I've had disabilities for years and have had a very hard time of it. I'm not blaming anyone for that and the world owes me nothing. My income for years has been welfare level (current pension cheques total $811.16 per month) and food is very expensive for me. That said, I did come out well on the property and am grateful for that. I am also grateful that I have learned to manage my life and my income.

        Let me tell you something else that I've learnt. Living with credit in order to facilitate the lifestyle to which you allude is a choice. It is not something which is thrust upon you. If you need to have a new car (mine cost $700 10 years ago), go on holidays (like rich people), buy things for your home instead of making them, and play silly financial games like deal with the bank on a regular basis, then you have only yourself to blame.

        The generation you're talking about is the ones working in the 50's and 60's. That was indeed a sweet spot. However, even then not everybody lucked out and not everybody led the same life. My dad worked bloody hard for what he got.

        Maybe considering doing something to help those who aren't so lucky as to be in your position, rather than gloating about it,

        Gloating about it? Boy, you're some piece of work. I am in fact very grateful for what I got. Not only that, I spend what little energy I can muster outside of home on community work.

        1. rhydian

          Re: The bank could close for a month and I'd be OK.

          It's a bit late now, but this whole saga was in relation to wages being paid in to bank accounts and spent via *debit cards*. Not credit.

          In fact, a credit card would probably have been a good emergency way to deal with the issue. Spend on the card while BACS is sorting itself, then pay the bill by the end of the month.

    2. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: The bank could close for a month and I'd be OK.

      The bank could close for a month and I'd be OK.

      I'd be screwed in short order.... I have very little cash laying about and some sizeable liabilities to cover (mortgage and train to work for instance).

      It's not that I'm fiscally profligate, but I'd need at least a few grand in cash to go for a month, and I'm not convinced having that much money in the house is a good idea.

    3. Bob Terwilliger

      Re: The bank could close for a month and I'd be OK.

      You'd be ok for only as long as you had a gun, ammunition, food and water....

    4. rhydian

      @OleJuul

      You seem to be projecting your own inability to handle cash in your youth on to people who, for sensible security and practicality reasons, would rather not have two grand stashed in a biscuit tin at the back of the kitchen cupboard.

      It's a hell of a lot easier to overspend on a card than it is in cash. £20 notes don't come with an overdraft.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A swift call to your bank (who will be aware of the HSBC/BACS failure)

    that sounds too like relying on other people to do their job.

    I once had to explain to a branch full of Barclays employees that their ATM network was now connected to Lloyds - even the manager hadn't been told.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Didn't they have a BACSup?

    1. MassiveBob

      Re: Didn't they have a BACSup?

      Apparently not.

      Someone should give them a kick up the BACSide.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    From: BACS CIO

    FAO 'Steve' in Mumbai, you're not going home until this is fixed! Call me on Tuesday, I'm off on holibobs now.

  7. MassiveBob

    THAT MOMENT

    Your bank does not pay your salary and your girlfriend realises she is not getting her anniversary gift.

    Can we demand late payment charges to the banks?

    Surely they should have anticipated problems (such as BACS f*cking up) and paid us earlier??

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: THAT MOMENT

      Everyone should send HSBC a letter informing them that they are in arrears and that they will be charged £25 for the letter.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: THAT MOMENT

      "Surely they should have anticipated problems (such as BACS f*cking up) and paid us earlier??"

      Earlier than what? Last day of the month is Monday & they're paying you on the previous Friday. That's earlier. Or did you mean they should have paid a day earlier than that? And what happens if there'd been a problem on Thursday? Pay a day earlier?

      Recursion: see recursion.

      1. MassiveBob

        Re: THAT MOMENT

        @Doctor Syntax

        Calm down man, it's a Friday.

        I was trying to say something like what Kubla Cant said but obviously Kubla Cant can say it better than me.

        If it's the other way around, and we were the ones doing the paying but it gets delayed due to a technical problem, what would the bank/service provider etc. tell us??

        "I'm sorry, you should have anticipated problems occurring and paid us earlier"??

  8. sjiveson

    Website Down Too

    Seems the website is down for some too. I can login but I can't do anything useful before I get thrown out again.

    1. VinceH

      Re: Website Down Too

      So I've just discovered - trying to log in on the business banking site to pay a supplier, but it's taking ages to get anywhere, and I can't be sat here all day waiting. I'll just have to try again later. :/

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Website Down Too

      " I can login but I can't do anything useful before I get thrown out again."

      Is this something new?

  9. DPWDC

    Knock on effect

    I see lots of reports saying about it affecting "HSBC Customers", but that's misleading.

    It also affects people who's employer is an HSBC customer. My employer has had the money taken out of their account, so they no longer are part of the loop - it's the people on the receiving end (regardless of bank) who are then stuffed.

  10. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    BACS will not be happy

    I once reported my mortgage provider to BACS for cocking up my direct debit and writing it to my credit record as a default when it was their fault. What was suspicious was that they started sending the wrong details to the bank just as we had started the remortgage process in place. After a flat refusal to change the credit record, two days after I reported it to BACS they changed it and sent us a letter of apology.

    I also did that to the Council when they screwed up my Council Tax (nothing fishy, just incompetence). I was told - through a contact who worked there - that they had to grovel to BACS and agree to being audited by them in order to keep their ability to collect Direct Debits.

    So if BACS is working normally, I expect there will be quite a lot of shouting going on right now...

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    That's as it should be

    Thousands of employees expecting to be paid ahead of the bank holiday weekend

    Peons should learn that "bank holidays" are not about holidays but about trying to keep bank runs under control because LOL fractional reserve banking.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: That's as it should be

      7 people of 8 believe in the tooth fairy.

      From The Roosevelt Myth by John Flyyn:

      After delivering his inaugural address, Roosevelt issued a proclamation closing all banks. The next problem was to open them. It was assumed by everybody who watched these proceedings that Roosevelt had a plan of his own which he was keeping secret. The strangest feature of this whole comedy-drama is now to come. Having closed the banks, Roosevelt had not the faintest notion how they were to be reopened. He had not the slightest plan of any kind in his mind. He had not even given the matter a thought. This, I know, is difficult to believe. Yet it is true, as we shall now see.

      ... Congress was called to meet on the 9th. And Will Woodin assured Roosevelt he would have legislation dealing with the banking situation in time. On Sunday, Moley and the new Attorney-General, Homer Cummings, worked on an emergency proclamation. This invoked the powers granted the President under the Trading with the Enemy Act passed in the First World War. It declared the four days from March 6 to March 9 a bank holiday, forbidding all banks to pay out either gold or currency but providing that the President might in that time permit any or all banks to carry on such transactions as they deemed proper. In preparing this document, the draft already prepared by Mills and Ballantine for President Hoover was used. It was issued on Monday, March 6. It was a clearly unconstitutional act but justified by the emergency provided Congressional confirmation could be quickly received and for this confirmation Roosevelt asked, though he had refused to tell Hoover he would do so.

      1. jde96

        Re: That's as it should be

        While there have certainly been emergency bank holidays in the past, (15th March 1968 in the UK was one), the August bank holiday has been observed in its current location since 1965, and between 1871 and then was the first Monday in August. You'd need a double layer tin foil hat if you believe that's got anthing to do with stemming a regular, annual crisis of some sort.

        For the record, I was affected by this, but got paid at about 8PM.

  12. Dabooka Silver badge
    Stop

    Christ there's some bollocks spouted on here at times.

    Pay in cash? - I think I have to give notice for wanting more than couple of grand out, and how many millions would a decent sized branch need on hand to service their business customers? Even that's assuming they have enough to float 2 x payrolls (remember the money has gone to BACS, it isn't there now). And how exactly do they claw it back when bonanza time hits and the employees get paid twice?

    Legal obligations? - FFS. No comment necessary on that one....

    Retirees had it easy? - Yeah I remember how much a fun time my parents had in the employment dreamscape that was the 70s and 80s.

    I'm glad I have a stack of alternative payment methods available, so I could at least get through until it's resolved; mortgage and DDs can swivel, that'll get fixed, I'm talking about petrol, food and beer!

    Thinking about it more, the missus and I have been mooting about getting a joint bank account for years, but the more of this I see the less I want to. Seems to be a big advantage in having our pay go into different banking groups.

  13. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Bacs is aware of an isolated issue affecting one of its member organisations"

    Oh, it's just another "isolated issue". And it's only affecting one customer. What's all the fuss about, eh mate ?

    Gotta love PR drones.

    Before headshotting them, that is.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: "Bacs is aware of an isolated issue affecting one of its member organisations"

      Translation:

      "One of customers has properly ****ed up, we're pretty sure it's nothing to do with us but not certain enough to invite the lawsuit."

  14. JayBizzle

    Surely they will just fix the issue and run the batch again?

    Faster payments runs 24/7 so I imagine they could run them over that system.

    But then that might be too easy....

    1. rhydian

      I'm not sure how easy it would be to move hundreds of thousands of payments from one system to another.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re-run the batch

      I heard that they planned to run majority of payments through FPS last night (Friday) around 10pm, with some (possibly because they are too large to go through FPS) through CHAPS.

      Anyone with more information care to comment?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Natwest customer paid from an HSBC employer...

    Luckily my pay went in yesterday, so our firm has missed out on this particular fuckup.

  16. downhome

    Thursday changes

    Odds on somebody made a badly tested change last night.

    Why oh why do people think that Thursday night is a good time to make changes?

    Lots of my mainframe-based clients do this and I cannot for the life of me understand why. It's just asking for trouble.

    1. Super Fast Jellyfish

      Re: Thursday changes

      So you have staff in as normal on a Friday to fix any issues, rather having to call staff out. You won't get 100% success on software updates no matter who you are (and that includes the space industry).

      In addition they probably have a month end change freeze (I believe most banks do) which would start Friday night.

  17. Spoonsinger

    This is starting to look like these 'failures' are one of those new fangled 'banking' scams. i.e. they 'have a problem' with their systems, peoples payments bounces, charges are incurred. A certain percentage of those people who have charges won't complain or get redress. Yeh! profit for bank or banks - it an oligarchy after all. I suspect a cycle. Place your bets on the next bank to have 'problems' with their basic accounting processes.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HSBC appears to be at fault, not BACS

    What I find interesting is that there is no report of BACS problems other than at HSBC.

    Logically, that suggests the problem is not BACS at all, it's lovely HSBC who cocked up, and I think it's indeed entirely OK to write them a letter and charge them for it. As a matter of fact, I think that's perfectly acceptable for people who end up overdrawn as a result, I would give them absolute hell for it.

  19. BobRocket

    It's all credits and debits

    No money changes hands.

    Grant all those affected customers an instant overdraft to the value of last months payroll credit, when the actual payment goes through any used overdraft facility is paid off and the overdraft increase is removed.

    (It is just an extension of credit, the moment an overdraft is agreed the balance is available for transfer)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For a few decades the calculations for handling payment dates when, for various reasons, the scheduled payment day was not a bank working day (calculations get a bit untidy when month end, weekend, bank holiday coincide) was handled at Midland Bank (currently part of HSBC) by a piece of code called dateprog.

    This was written by a very smart guy and was rock solid. The only problem was that nobody else could make head or tail of the code. The instruction to programmers was "hands off: it ain't broke, so don't try to fix it". Maybe HSBC have done a rewrite...

    Anon because I was there...

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