Archived: Response from Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

From: Public Services and Procurement Canada

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Mr. Michael Wernick
Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet
Privy Council Office

November 9, 2017

Dear Mr. Wernick,

I am writing in response to your letter, dated November 2, 2017, in which you asked deputy heads to write to you, with a copy to our Minister, informing you of the actions we have taken in our department to date, and actions we plan to take in the future, to help stabilize the pay system and ensure employees are paid accurately and on time.

The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) is a micro-agency with fewer than 100 employees. Our staff are located in: Iqaluit (where our headquarters are located along with a regional office for Nunavut), Yellowknife (the regional office for the Northwest Territories), Whitehorse (the regional office for the Yukon), as well as a liaison office in Ottawa. The majority of CanNor employees work in the North, which brings unique complexities such as Isolated Post Allowances and other factors that require manual entry into the pay system. These unique conditions are shared by all federal employees working in the North.

Actions taken to the benefit of all employees working in the North to date and going forward

I am pleased to report that the Northern Federal Council, which I chair, provided early leadership as it pertains to Phoenix implementation issues experienced by the Northern federal workforce. I worked on several fronts with the Northern Federal Council Champion for pay and compensation issues – Marie Doyle of Health Canada – over the last year to the benefit of all departments and agencies with a presence in the North.

We first focused on raising awareness with Public Service and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and the Treasury Board Secretariat of the significant and distinct pay issues experienced in the three territories, and helped the Northern executive and managerial cadre become aware of, and understand, the tools available (e.g. discretionary authority to issue emergency payments) to support their employees.

We then worked with PSPC on the design of an approach to address pay issues related to Isolated Post Allowances – which were particularly significant in the North. These efforts led to the successful implementation of a “pod” approach to handling Isolated Post Allowances.  By dedicating a small team of pay advisors (the “pod”) specialized in and dedicated to these issues, the Pay Centre was able to properly respond to and solve cases identified as Isolated Pay Allowances in a more timely and direct fashion. This was an early positive example of the use of pods to address specialized pay issues.

The Northern Federal Council will continue to be a hub for brokering information, awareness and support. Furthermore, the Northern Federal Council will explore with PSPC how to broaden the Isolated Pay Allowances pod concept in order to address more fully Northern employees’ pay issues.

Actions taken in CanNor to date

Within CanNor, the following actions have been taken:

CanNor’s HR-to-Pay Team

  • At CanNor, Human Resources (HR) and Finance officials work as a single team on pay issues, reporting issues directly to the Head of HR and the Chief Finance Officer. Our agency’s small size means that they are able to be personally familiar with all employee files.
  • CanNor’s HR holds weekly meetings with the Agency’s Liaison Officer at the Pay Centre. This provides a streamlined way for the Agency to alert the Pay Center of specific pay issues, including hardship cases.

Managers and employees are informed of HR-to-Pay developments

  • To date, we have encouraged employees to self-identify if they are having problems receiving payments or are undergoing hardship. CanNor has taken action in a timely fashion on those few cases that were identified.
  • CanNor all-staff communications regularly provide information to employees on the identification and resolution of pay issues, including options for emergency salary advances or filing claims for reimbursement of extra costs incurred.
  • Managers are personally encouraged to identify and forward to HR any problem cases that come to their attention, which helps flag priority issues during discussions with the Pay Centre.
  • Communications from OCHRO and PSPC, and Pay Centre updates, are shared with all staff as requested.

Managers and employees understand their roles and responsibilities in HR-to-Pay and incorporate robust HR-to-Pay practices into their routines

  • CanNor has developed a customized checklist for staffing actions (e.g. letters of offer, acting positions, casuals, students, etc.) to ensure the right info is being entered into the My GCHR system in a timely manner, and that the right documentation is sent to the Pay Centre to enable timely action. This helps to manage the unique complexities of Isolated Post Allowances and other factors that may require manual entry into the Phoenix system.
  • CanNor provides the Pay Centre Departmental Liaison Officer with in-depth background on issues related to individual pay files, and ensures that Compensation Advisors understand the full context of CanNor pay issues, in order to better prioritize files.

Actions CanNor plans to take in the near future

CanNor plans to take the following additional steps:

Strengthening the HR-to-Pay team

  • CanNor will be adding HR capacity by hiring 1 additional full-time-equivalent staff (increasing capacity by 25%).

Managers and employees are informed of HR-to-Pay developments

  • CanNor’s full Senior Management Committee will review the agency’s Phoenix dashboard reports, including students, and with particular attention to any  priority cases, at each of its regularly-scheduled meetings.

Ensuring Employee Contact Information is up to date

  • CanNor is completing a draft checklist for processing departures, including employees transferring to another department, retirements, terminations, etc. This will help deal with the special complexities of processing pay files for Northern employees (like stopping rent, updating address/contact info when an employee leaves the North, stopping IPAs, etc.). Once this checklist is complete, we will share it with partner departments in the North via the Northern Federal Council.

In conclusion, CanNor is working hard to ensure our employees are paid accurately and on time and to support PSPC in finding solutions to Northern-specific pay challenges. The fact that we are a small organization has allowed us to take a personalized and specialized approach to cases, allowing us to be nimble and to pilot new solutions to Northern-specific issues.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require further information on any of the above-mentioned items.

Yours sincerely,

Janet King
Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor)

The Honorable Navdeep Bains,
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

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