Government of Canada update on the Phoenix pay system April 5, 2017

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for attending.

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

Today, I will provide an update on tax preparation and our progress toward steady state.

Tax implications

All employees should now have their tax slips and be able to file their taxes. Any employees who have not yet received their slips, particularly former employees who should have received them via mail, should contact us for assistance.

We continue to issue amended tax slips for employees as soon as we correct the issue, including those who were overpaid in 2016. I would like to remind employees that amended tax slips are not uncommon. Last year, CRA processed more than one million amended slips across the country.

I know this situation is challenging and frustrating and we are doing everything we can to support employees. Our call centre agents are available to help employees who have questions. We are now getting about 200 calls a day related to taxes. Employees with detailed questions about their earnings are being referred to a specialized support group that is either handling the call immediately or contacting those employees.

I strongly encourage employees to review their tax slips as soon as possible and call us if they need help. Employees who wait until the last minute may not be able to get needed support in time. At this time, we are able to call employees back, when needed, within seven days.

Processing productivity

In addition to taxes, we remain focused on prompt processing and short wait times. We have stabilized the queue of transactions at the Pay Centre and are starting to see a decrease as we process more transactions than we receive. This is positive, but not fast enough, so we continue to look for ways to speed up our progress. For example, we are working with departments to determine ways they can help with the processing of transactions.

Our processing capacity will receive a boost once tax filing season passes. Currently, we have a significant number of advisors helping answer employees’ tax-related questions and processing overpayment cases. Once this work is done, some of these advisors will return to processing pay transactions and reducing wait times.

Technical enhancements are also helping us accelerate our processing. One of these recently implemented enhancements has allowed us to automate the manual calculations for actings entered late into Phoenix. These transactions are time consuming and make up a significant portion of our current workload.

Since introducing this automation on March 22, we’ve processed and paid out over 20,000 acting transactions to these employees. We will continue to process these transactions through June.

Another technical enhancement is automated overtime processing. Once submitted and approved, overtime transactions are immediately processed, bypassing the Pay Centre completely and appearing on an employee’s next pay. Since Phoenix was introduced, more than $300 million in overtime has been paid out to some 88,000 employees through this system automation.

Recently, I’ve heard that some employees may be holding off on submitting overtime because they are worried that doing so may lead to pay problems. In fact, the opposite is true. As I mentioned, overtime is processed automatically and quickly under normal circumstances since it doesn’t go to the Pay Centre. However, if overtime is submitted more than six months late, time-consuming manual calculations are required. This may cause a delay in payment and it creates needless work for the Pay Centre, preventing our compensation advisors from processing other transactions. So I urge employees to submit their overtime as quickly as possible to avoid lengthy manual calculations and delays in receiving their payments.

These technical enhancements are reducing our workload and getting pay moving more quickly to employees. We will continue to consult with our colleagues across government, our employees and our union partners to find other ways to streamline processing of pay.

On that point, it’s important to remember that the Pay Centre is only one component of the federal government’s pay system. So as we take steps to speed up Pay Centre processing, we are also working with our colleagues at the TBS and other departments to assess needed improvements to optimize the pay system from end to end.

Dashboard

Turning now to our dashboard, we can see service standard improvements across most categories.

I am pleased to say that we have reached steady state for maternity and parental leave requests. This means that when employees’ requests for leave are sent to the Pay Centre, we are processing 95% of them within 20 working days. As well, all but 20 employees with transactions in the Pay Centre that had previously surpassed our service standard have now started receiving their top-up payments and we are in contact with these employees.

I would ask employees to contact us if they have not started receiving top up payments within 20 days of submitting a maternity or parental leave request.

As for disability leave requests, we met our service standard 37% of the time in March. As you can see, this number is slightly reduced when compared to last month because we were processing older cases that had already passed our service standard. That said, we remain on track to reach a steady state for this category by the end of April.

Next priority

Once we are at steady state for disability cases, we will shift our focus to the next priority areas. These transactions will be identified in consultation with client departments and union representatives.

I’d like to note that the way we’re organizing our work today is not our long-term approach.

Right now, we are focusing on specific transaction types for efficiency. And I’ve heard many employees ask why we aren’t processing all their transactions at the same time. I want them to know that we are heading in that direction. As we get closer to a steady state, we’ll shift to an employee-centric model. This means we’ll focus on individual employees and address all their pay requests collectively rather than handling only certain transactions. We believe this model will provide better service and more helpful support.

Conclusion

We are making ongoing progress, steadily improving and moving toward a better, more reliable pay system. We also are very aware that we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are determined to address all pay issues and to get to steady state as soon as possible.

I would like to remind employees who are experiencing financial difficulties due to processing delays that emergency salary advances and priority payments remain available to them. Please speak to your manager as soon as possible to obtain financial support. There is no reason to go without pay.

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

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