Archived: Government of Canada update on the Phoenix pay system for October 5, 2016
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Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us once again for our regular update on government pay. It is a pleasure to be joined by my colleagues Alfred Tsang and Ryan Pilgrim from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. They will answer your questions on the claims process for out-of-pocket expenses related to public service pay issues.
We continue to make steady progress toward eliminating our backlog of transactions for over 80,000 employees.
Since my last update, we have closed a total of 38,228 employee cases, which represents close to 50% of our original case load, according to our plan.
Our compensation advisors are working tirelessly to clear these cases, and we remain on track to have the backlog addressed by the end of October. As I have mentioned previously, this forecast is based on projected workloads and resolution rates, but there are several factors that can affect our progress.
The complexity of each case varies and is not really known until individual employee files are opened. Where specific cases are complex and involve multiple transactions, more time is obviously required.
The other factor that can affect progress is system performance. Recently, we have seen some intermittent information technology challenges that have slowed down the system. These issues were not always directly related to the Phoenix software.
Public Services and Procurement Canada has worked diligently with our partners to make sure all angles were covered. We have addressed the underlying causes and are seeing much better performance. We are now monitoring system performance on an hourly basis, and we will take appropriate action to ensure that we can access and address pay cases as quickly as possible.
Another aspect of the pay system that remains an ongoing priority is privacy protection. This past Friday, we encountered a situation where employee pay information was accessible to compensation advisors across government. Normally, government compensation advisors have access to this information within their own organizations, or several organizations in the case of Miramichi. However, in this situation, they were able to access information from other departments and agencies as well. As soon as this issue was detected, we took quick action. Proper levels of access were restored, and we notified the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The risk associated with this incident is considered low, and I am sharing this with you because we have committed to transparency and openness in all matters concerning privacy.
As for our Priority 1 and 2 cases, we continue to see consistently low numbers. Since my last update, we received 41 new Priority 1 cases. All have either been paid today or will be paid on the next pay day.
We also received 173 new Priority 2 cases, which will be addressed within the next six weeks.
As I’ve said before, an ongoing baseline level of reported pay issues is expected in a large complex pay system. This situation is difficult to avoid in a system as complex as ours, where employees are constantly moving into, between and out of 101 departments and agencies.
There are two important points that I want to emphasize here.
First, there were issues in the Government’s pay system before the implementation of Phoenix. Previously, we had no way of seeing all of them and making sure they were being addressed. Now, we have the ability to monitor for problems and ensure employees are getting prompt help.
Second, I continue to hear people wrongly equate the elimination of the backlog with the elimination of all pay problems. The two are linked but separate. We are committed to minimizing the number of new pay problems, but even with a very low error rate, we will still see pay issues emerge after the backlog is gone.
In addition, after the elimination of the backlog, we will enter a transition phase leading to our steady state.
That said, with these old cases closed, we will have more than 200 additional resources available to help us accelerate toward our steady state, where the pay system will function effectively and reliably with the fewest number of problems possible.
As I have explained previously, we are not yet processing pay transactions as quickly as we will when we reach our steady state. Part of our strategy to reach this point is to implement ongoing enhancements to technology and ensure that Phoenix users are well trained.
For example, we have automated salary calculations and increment dates, and we have implemented notifications of pending transactions for managers. We have also updated pay stubs to include garnishment deductions such as child support payments, but we continue to receive many complaints about the overall format of pay stubs. We are exploring options to make them clearer and simpler.
Next week, we will implement a self-service function to submit overtime during acting assignments for retroactive periods. This new feature will eliminate the need for manual input from a compensation advisor and decrease the time it will take for the system to generate the payment.
We are also planning a number of technical enhancements in the coming months to make it easier and faster for employees to get paid.
Training and support
On the training front, we continue to work closely with departments and agencies. These efforts are ensuring that we are adapting pay processes and the training material for all users.
To date, 13 training sessions with the human resources community have been held to identify issues with processes and to find ways to decrease pay problems. And 6 more sessions are planned for this month. These sessions will continue as long as they are needed.
We have also been working with the Canada School of Public Service to enhance and clarify our existing training material and to develop additional support tools for Phoenix users.
As part of this effort, we are using feedback we receive from employees through our online form to guide us. For example, many public servants have asked for information about how the pay process works and how to read their pay stubs.
This information was already available, but it wasn’t very easy to find. We have now redesigned our Phoenix Support page on GCpedia to make it easier to find the information employees are looking for, and we continue to post new tools, fact sheets and questions and answers to respond to their queries.
Also, this week we posted on GCcampus a new information video for managers, which was developed by the Canada School of Public Service. This video provides managers with a quick focused overview of key processes and actions in Phoenix.
And finally, as discussed at our last briefing, a claims process is now in place for employees who have incurred out-of-pocket expenses, such as fees for non-sufficient funds, financial penalty charges and interest charges, as a result of Phoenix-related pay issues. My colleagues from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat are here to answer questions on this process and what we are seeing so far.
As you know, not all the pay issues we’ve seen have been related to missing pay. Some employees have received overpayments, and we have received concerns about potential tax implications. If employees want to repay overpayments before December 31, 2016, to avoid any potential tax implications, they should contact our call centre so that we start the recovery as quickly as possible. Employees with concerns about potential tax implications can also visit the Canada Revenue Agency website for more information or call its support line.
For other employees who have been overpaid, the Government has established a repayment process that includes multiple repayment options to suit individual needs and minimize financial hardship. Additional information on this process will be provided very soon.
Let me conclude by stating that we are seeing progress.
For those experiencing pay problems, I’m sure this progress may seem slow, but it is steady, and it is leading toward a more effective pay system.
With the ongoing introduction of technical enhancements and automation, less manual intervention is needed. Users are getting more comfortable with Phoenix. We are getting positive feedback from compensation advisors who are working with current transactions. Increasingly, we are turning our attention to our steady state, which we’ll transition to after the backlog is cleared. I plan to be able to give you more details on what that will look like at our next technical briefing.
Let me say once again that we know how difficult this ongoing situation is. We are working tirelessly to resolve all outstanding pay issues, and we are grateful for the patience and understanding of employees across government.
Marie Lemay, P.Eng., ing.
Public Services and Procurement Canada
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