Response from Employment and Social Development Canada

From Public Services and Procurement Canada

Mr. Michael Wernick
Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet
Privy Council Office
Room 1000
85 Sparks Street
Ottawa ON  K1A 0A3

Dear Mr. Wernick:

I am responding to your letter of November 2, 2017, regarding the challenges and issues caused by the pay system. 

At Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), the top priority for the senior management team has always been its employees. From the beginning, our focus has been to ensure that we can quickly assist employees who are experiencing financial hardship while their pay issues are being addressed, and also to ensure that structures are in place so that we can continue to support employees in the best way possible.

To that end, ESDC has implemented responsive processes to support employees, and made significant corporate contributions to assist the public service in addressing these collective challenges. The steps and initiatives that the Department has actioned to date are outlined below for your information.

Supporting employees

The Department has undertaken a series of measures to ensure that employees are supported and continually assisted.

  • All employees, no matter the severity of the pay issue, have been directed, through ongoing communication to an internal three-step escalation process. The escalation process allows employees and managers to identify pay-related issues through a centralized internal Human Resources portal where the information is captured and routed to an internal Pay Liaison team who can intervene and work with the Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) Pay Centre on behalf of the employee.
  • The internal Pay Liaison team has increased from 6 to 18 employees to work with PSPC on addressing the escalated pay issues.
  • ESDC recruited 10 dedicated departmental compensation advisors (CA) in August 2017 to work full-time on ESDC’s specific cases. In the coming weeks, we will be increasing this capacity by another 10 CAs. With these new hires, we will be focusing our efforts to address the more challenging cases, including maternity and parental leave, termination and retirement, disability and return to work, and death in service.
  • ESDC immediately implemented, and regularly communicated to employees and managers, a robust and responsive Emergency Salary Advance and Priority Payment process. ESDC employees in financial hardship can receive a payment within 48 to 72 hours.
    • Since April 2016, 5,384 payments for over $7.8 million have been issued.
    • Criteria for payments have been expanded to consider the accumulation and severity of pay issues.
  • The Claims against the Crown process was also quickly implemented to assist employees with tax advisory services as a result of pay issues and who have incurred out of pocket expenses.
  • ESDC introduced recoverable advances for employees in an overpayment situation where, as a result, their social benefits (such as the Canada Child Benefit) are reduced by an overstatement of annual salary to the Canada Revenue Agency.
  • Infographics and reference tools were developed and shared widely through various communications products and networks to assist and support employees and managers in understanding and navigating the pay system and the Pay Centre.
  • In addition to promoting the existing PSPC training material, ESDC has supplemented this material with user-friendly and plain language reference guides.
  • The departmental Intranet site continues to be updated regularly with resources, self-service tools and a glossary of step-by-step resources to assist managers and employees with their compensation and benefits questions.

Supporting internal infrastructure

Constant and regular communication and awareness activities are undertaken and targeted to various levels of the organization through various means and mediums. In 2016–2017, over 86 pay-related messages, articles and updates were issued to ensure employees and managers were aware of the latest developments and training opportunities. Additionally, the following measures have been undertaken.

  • The Department recently dedicated a director general and director to bring full-time senior leadership through a new compensation directorate. This is in addition to the tripling of the pay liaison function from 6 to 18 employees and hiring of 20 dedicated ESDC compensation advisors.
  • A departmental-wide network of “key-users” was put in place prior to the launch of the new pay system, and the biweekly forum allows for the quick dissemination and communication of new developments, sharing of best practices and identification of systemic issues to be escalated to PSPC.
  • Ongoing support is being provided to managers to execute their responsibilities to minimize pay and reporting issues.
    • Section 34 reminders for managers, such as biweekly log in “pop-up” messages reminding managers of critical section 34 approval dates to ensure timely approval and minimize outstanding pay transactions; and
    • Strengthened and enhanced salary forecasting tools and reporting in order for managers to quickly capture and identify pay anomalies, such as over and underpayments.
  • Enhanced and strengthened financial capacity was put in place by dedicating 21 full-time employees to support responsive emergency salary advances and priority payments. Ongoing analysis of each pay cycle is conducted to capture and report new or systemic issues to PSPC’s attention, including duplicate payments and excessive recoveries of emergency salary advances or overpayments.

Supporting the Government’s efforts

ESDC has been providing ongoing support and assistance at a government-wide level.

  • Early in 2016, ESDC provided 25 full-time and part-time qualified compensation advisors for PSPC’s pay offices in Miramichi and Gatineau.
  • In June 2016, at PSPC’s request, ESDC established and staffed a fifty-person satellite pay office in Winnipeg. Within two weeks, the first employees were in place and the Department continues to manage all the staffing and recruitment activities of the satellite office on behalf of PSPC.
  • Since the implementation of Phoenix, ESDC has worked closely with PSPC to address issues related to the timely and accurate issuance of Records of Employment, which are required to allow public servants to access maternity, parental and regular Employment Insurance benefits. These measures include using workaround solutions to allow employees to receive benefit payments and working with PSPC to better understand the root causes of issues to allow solutions to be developed and implemented. Progress has been made through improvements in business processes and new system releases, and ESDC and PSPC continue to work closely together to pursue further improvement opportunities.
  • ESDC has developed tools and processes to assist managers across the Department in identifying potential salary overpayments and underpayments, and to ensure accuracy in financial statements and Public Accounts reporting.
  • The ESDC Pay Control Framework was developed and presented at a Deputy Chief Financial Officer Council. These were shared and communicated at large with central agencies and other government departments as best practices to assist and guide other departments experiencing these same challenges.
  • ESDC has been a very active contributor in various governance forums and is well represented in the new HR-to-Pay governance structure at the Deputy, Assistant Deputy Minister and Director General meetings.
  • ESDC has recently contributed a full-time resource to the PSPC and Environment and Climate Change Canada co-led Interdepartmental Analysis Team looking at root-cause analysis of the pay system issues.

Going forward

The Department will be enhancing our communication activities by building on the existing internal tools developed to guide employees and managers, and by developing targeted, quick hit infographics for employees, managers and students. We continue to work with the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer in the launch of new employee and manager training, which we plan to house on our internal integrated learning system so that we can monitor up-take and participation.

Since April 2016, we have consistently reviewed and adjusted our processes to meet the urgent needs of employees, and we will continue to do so. We have quickly and purposefully increased our resources along the way, and will continue to ensure the Department is resourced to respond to the challenges facing our employees. The ESDC senior management team remains committed to supporting the implementation of the integrated HR-to-Pay work plan that responds to the existing challenges currently faced by the public service.

Please refer to the annex as an overview of activities undertaken or planned by ESDC.

Yours sincerely,

Louise Levonian
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development
Enclosure: 1

c.c. The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

The Honourable Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

The Honourable Kent Hehr, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities

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