Government of Canada update on the Phoenix pay system March 8, 2017

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for attending.

I am joined once again by my colleagues Randy Hewlett, from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and Alfred Tsang, from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS).

Today, I am happy to provide our monthly update on service standards, tax preparations and our efforts to prepare for the upcoming student hiring period.

Service standards

Let me start by reminding employees that emergency salary advances and priority payments are available for anyone facing financial hardship because of pay issues. It is important for me to emphasize this point because, very recently, I was informed that some employees are still not aware that they can access emergency salary payments very quickly from their department if they need them.

Now let me talk to you about the progress we are making toward achieving a steady state, which is reflected on our updated dashboard.

Looking back over the past month, we see two positive indicators.

First, we have reached the important tipping point where we are starting to process more transactions than we receive. This is a very important milestone. It means that both wait times and the overall number of pay requests awaiting processing will decrease. We started to see our numbers moving in the right direction.

Second, we are seeing service standard improvements at the Pay Centre in several categories. Working with unions, we have prioritized parental and disability leave transactions, and we have made significant progress in both of these areas.

For parental leave, we committed to achieving steady state by the end of March, and I am pleased to announce that we are on track to reach this important target. As of today, new requests for maternity or parental leave will be processed within 20 days after receipt at the Pay Centre, 95% of the time. The vast majority of transactions at the Pay Centre that are outside of our service standards have been addressed, and employees will start receiving their top-up payments on March 22. There are a few cases that require additional information, but we are reaching out to these employees and their departments.

You may be wondering how we can be approaching steady state for parental leave when our dashboard shows that only 19% of transactions met our service standards. It is important to remember that this figure reflects the past month, and during this period, we focused on cases that had already passed our service standards. Therefore, although we were processing many transactions, most did not contribute to an overall improvement in our service standards.

We are also on track to meet our April target for disability leave. Employees will continue to see improvements in this and other categories on a monthly basis, and we are working very hard to accelerate our timelines. It’s important to note that, for departments and agencies serviced by the Pay Centre, our service standards are measured from the time a pay request is received at the Pay Centre to the time the transaction is closed. There are important steps that take place before a request is sent to us, and we are working with departments and agencies to ensure that those delays are minimized.

Moving forward

Improvements in our service standards will soon receive a significant boost from a recently implemented system enhancement. As of last week, calculations for past actings are now automated in Phoenix.

Actings inputted on time or in advance by departmental human resources staff have been automated since Phoenix was implemented. However, past actings required lengthy manual calculations. This new enhancement will decrease the time needed to process these transactions.

Right now, there are close to 100,000 such actings awaiting processing in the Pay Centre, which represents approximately 30% of our current workload. To ensure we effectively manage this large volume of work, past acting transactions will be processed in a controlled and focused manner between now and June. The plan is for employees to start receiving payments on March 22.

Students

As we approach spring, departments and agencies are looking to hire students. Students have always been an important part of the public service. It is an important opportunity for the Government to provide a new generation of prospective employees with a rewarding and positive work experience. To this end, deputy ministers across government have committed to put a priority on student employment.

For our part, we are putting everything in place so the pay issues encountered by students last year are not repeated. We have worked with client departments and agencies to improve the process from when they are first hired by these organizations to when they are paid. These measures mean that we are able to provide timely and accurate pay to students joining the public service when the required documents are sent by their department to the Pay Centre at least 10 days before they start. This same timeframe applies to the entering of information into Phoenix by departments and agencies not serviced by the Pay Centre, and we are working with our colleagues at TBS to ensure that there is consistency across government.

Tax implications

Now on to taxes. The issues we identified with Relevé 1 tax slips have been resolved, and employees were able to access their slips on February 27. Employees in British Columbia who had their premiums for private health plan coverage appear in the wrong box will be able to access their amended tax slips shortly. Amended T4s will also be produced for any other issues that arise.

Across Canada, millions of amended T4s are issued annually for various reasons. This year, public servants who were overpaid will receive them. In these situations, the CRA is recommending that employees file their taxes before the April 30 filing deadline with the tax slips they have. When amended tax slips are produced, employees will not have to refile. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) will send amended slips to the CRA, and tax returns will be recalculated, all without any need for employees to do anything additional.

We have tried to minimize the impact of pay issues on employees, but we know that we need to continue to provide them with help and answer their questions. A broad range of information is available online, and in the coming weeks, the CRA and PSPC will release videos to further explain the range of tax situations employees may face. We are also posting a series of questions and answers that will address queries we have received from employees about their tax slips and filing their returns.

Employees can also contact our Call Centre, where agents are ready to help them understand paystub information and tax slips.

Since February 13, we’ve received approximately 6,500 calls regarding taxes. To manage this volume, we are adding more resources to help address tax questions and return calls when required. We will continue to offer this help for as long as employees need it.

Conclusion

While we continue to move toward steady state, employees will start to feel a change in processing speeds. As with any large information technology system, there will be issues that emerge as we move forward, but employees should know that we will always take immediate action to ensure that employees receive their pay. Overall, signs of improvement will become increasingly evident in the next month. It will take time for all employees to feel this, but we are making steady progress.

I look forward to providing you with our next update in April.

Marie Lemay, P.Eng., ing.
Deputy Minister
Public Services and Procurement Canada

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