Response from Public Health Agency of Canada

From Public Services and Procurement Canada

Mr. Michael Wernick Clerk of the Privy Council
80 Wellington Street, Room 332
Ottawa, Ontario K1A OA3

Dear Mr. Wernick:

Thank you for your letter of November 2, 2017, concerning the challenges we all continue to face as a result of the pay system. As an organization that receives its human resources services from Health Canada (HC) through a shared services partnership, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has benefitted from the range of measures that HC has implemented to minimize negative impacts on employees and to assist the Pay Centre to reach a steady state. As well, PHAC has taken proactive steps to help our staff through a stressful time.

Through our work with our HC service providers, our capacity to address pay issues has been enhanced. An internal escalation team was established to highlight issues to the Pay Centre on behalf of all PHAC employees. The escalation team assigns case managers to employees (rather than to specific pay actions), allowing for a more personalized service. Employees are able to communicate directly with their case managers, which supports the resolution of employee pay issues in a comprehensive and timely manner. Our partners at HC–the ADM of corporate services and the DG HR–have held town hall meetings for PHAC employees around the country and have shared key messages by email.

We have also benefitted from an in-house pay pilot project implemented earlier this year to increase capacity to resolve pay issues. The pilot project has allowed HC to directly process certain pay transactions for PHAC employees.

At the onset of pay issues, I instructed each of my direct reports to take ownership of this file and to share new information with their team as soon as it became available. Our Chief Financial Officer has been tracking cases and overpayments, and we communicate regularly with employees experiencing pay issues to ensure that they receive all important information and understand how they will be affected. All PHAC employees are provided with regular email updates and with a central source (the PHAC intranet) of compensation-related information.

As well, I have hosted town hall meetings on pay and Phoenix, during which compensation experts have answered employee questions and alleviated fears. I would like to take this opportunity to relate that I made a pledge to students this year, which included a priority that they would be paid accurately and on time.

Training in submitting pay action requests to the Pay Centre is available to all PHAC employees, and is mandatory for any employee in an administrative position who makes frequent submissions to the Pay Centre. The scope of the training session has been expanded to include more general compensation-related information, and I am happy to report that attendance at these training sessions is high.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have been taking measures to ensure that employees are not placed in a position of financial hardship. Emergency salary advances are available to employees who are not receiving regular pay and, on a case-by-case basis, priority payments are provided to employees who are owed substantial amounts of money. These measures are helping us to ensure that an employee's right to be paid for work performed is being fulfilled.

With regard to upcoming actions, we will continue to partner with HC to increase the scope of support we provide to our employees.

I look forward to working with you to establish compensation best practices at PHAC.

Sincerely,

Siddika Mithani, PhD

c.c.: The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health

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