Archived: Government of Canada update on the Phoenix Pay System for 28 July, 2016
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Good morning everyone, and thank you for joining us.
I am pleased to provide you with an update on the actions we are taking to address public service pay issues and the progress we have made since my last technical briefing on July 18th.
Let me be clear: we are working relentlessly to help each and every employee experiencing a problem with his or her pay.
I have said it before and I will say it again: our first priority is ensuring that all employees are paid what they have earned.
You will recall that we have organized employee cases into three priority groups.
The first priority is employees not receiving any pay. These include new hires and students, or pay that was not restarted for employees returning to work from leave without pay.
The second priority is employees whose pay may be affected by going on leave or exiting the public service.
And the third priority is those receiving regular pay but missing supplementary pay, such as acting or extra duty pay, and salary increment adjustments.
For this third group, we have developed a detailed schedule to manage the backlog.
We want any employees missing compensation to know when their situation will be resolved.
We are making progress. We have hired more people and we are adding more temporary pay offices.
To accelerate our progress, we are recruiting as many compensation experts as we can to help employees get paid as quickly as possible.
As you know, we created a Temporary Pay Unit in Gatineau at the beginning of the month. At present, 57 employees are working there. Last week, I told you this number would rise to 89 employees. We now expect to have more than 115 joining the Unit in the coming weeks.
We are grateful for the support of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and other organizations, in helping us re-hire former compensation advisors.
Our recruitment efforts are working. The Temporary Pay Unit is already processing outstanding pay requests and we expect their pace to accelerate as more people join the Unit.
Since last week, approximately 1,100 employee cases of the 80,000 in the backlog have been addressed in the Gatineau office and we are continuing to tackle these employee cases. Most employees will see adjustments made on their August 10th pay, if they have not already seen them.
We are creating temporary regional hubs in Winnipeg, Montreal and Shawinigan, where employees with expertise in compensation will help ensure we resolve employee cases by the end of October.
The Winnipeg office will start with 20 compensation advisors and we expect that number to rise to 50 in the coming weeks. They will start processing cases as of August 8th.
The hubs in Montreal and Shawinigan should be up and running by mid August, adding 20 compensation advisors in each location working on getting people paid.
With these measures in place, we currently expect that all the backlog cases will be closed by the dates identified on the schedule beside me.
We have already begun processing these cases and a number of them will be completed before these dates.
These timelines reflect our workflow with the current staff in the Temporary Pay Unit, as well as the additional resources we are dedicating to resolving all pay issues as quickly as possible.
The information projected on the screens illustrates our intended timelines for resolving all pay issues, including specific backlog cases. This will allow employees to know when to expect resolution of their pay issue. These general timelines are also available on our website.
First Priority Group
With regard to the first priority group, I indicated at the last technical briefing that 720 employees reported they had not received any pay. We committed that 486 of these employees would receive a payment on the next pay day as we had required information to process them.
I can report that all of these employees received their pay yesterday. Of the 234 remaining, we expect that 139 will be paid on August 10th, as we now have the information required to proceed. There are 35 employees for which we are still waiting to obtain information and after a thorough check, 60 do not appear in our system.
Since last week, an additional 589 employees have reported missing pay issues. We are addressing 210 of these, with the objective of paying them on August 10th. We are working with departments to obtain information to resolve the remainder of employee cases.
While we are making progress, we expect that new cases will continue to emerge, but in diminishing numbers over time.
I want to remind public servants that they need to keep reporting their pay problems as soon as possible so we can quickly respond. Again, an emergency salary advance can be issued within a few days of a request.
Public servants can also view their pay stubs in Phoenix as early as two days before pay day. I encourage them to check their pay stubs early and contact us immediately if they see an error.
A quick reporting of errors will give us an opportunity to investigate the cause and address the issue immediately. Employees reporting missing pay can expect to have their case addressed within three days.
The best way to report a problem is through the feedback form, available on the main page of our website.
Second Priority Group
With regards to the second priority group, I reported last week that approximately 1,100 employees were experiencing problems related to leave, such as maternity or parental payments, long-term disability payments, severance payments or requests for records of employment. Since July 18, we have addressed 74 cases and are processing the remainder as quickly as possible.
These types of cases continue to be reported. Employees reporting issues with these types of leave can expect to have their case addressed within six weeks.
We have also confirmed with Service Canada that employees on parental leave do not need their record of employment to apply for employment insurance benefits.
Update on measures taken
On July 18, I also announced a series of measures we are taking to help those experiencing pay problems and to prevent further issues from arising.
To help pay requests flow more quickly through Phoenix, last week we began notifying managers of any transactions pending their action.
To date, we have informed some 7,000 managers that they had pay transactions awaiting their approval. Soon, these notifications will be automated.
This week, we enhanced our call centre capacity by opening a new location in Toronto staffed with 100 agents, with more to come. This centre will ensure that all employees are able to speak to someone with a minimal wait time, while reducing the burden at Miramichi and reducing the number of dropped calls.
Yesterday, the centre received 2,500 calls. None were dropped and the average wait time was under four minutes.
Call centre agents will be able to provide updates on when pay requests will be addressed and how long they will take to be resolved. Callers with more complex pay questions will be referred to a pay advisor using a case status form.
A compensation advisor in the Pay Centre will call back employees reporting issues in priority 1 and 2 groups within 48 hours.
In addition to providing employees with easier access to information, this approach will ensure that our dedicated compensation advisors have more time to focus on fixing pay problems.
As well, enhanced tools and additional training are being developed and offered to both employees and managers in PSPC and other departments.
The first set of tools will include job aids, tutorials and webcast events made broadly available across the public service in the coming weeks.
PSPC and the Canada School of Public Service are working together to develop additional mandatory training to help employees and managers.
We are also developing a toolkit for managers with reference materials, such as checklists and tips, in an effort to help employees experiencing pay issues. This toolkit will be provided to managers through departmental human resources branches.
We will also proceed over the next few months with planned enhancements to the Phoenix software, which will increase automation and thereby reduce the number of manual steps required and speed up the timelines.
We have already completed enhancements to speed up transactions. For example, the pay system now recognizes and automatically adjusts levels for acting pay to ensure compensation is paid at the correct rate.
We are also examining our processes to ensure employees are treated fairly. For instance, we are revising the notices issued to overpaid employees to make them more helpful and understanding.
Last week, I reported that two privacy breaches related to the Phoenix pay system have been fixed. On July 26th, I was made aware of further privacy breaches allowing four federal employees to access names and identification numbers (PRIs) of employees from other departments. We have informed the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
Our Special Investigation Unit has assessed and reported that these breaches are deemed very low risk. I have instructed my department to conduct additional testing to identify additional potential vulnerabilities.
We are also working with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and unions to explore options to support employees who have faced financial hardship because of inaccurate or missing pay. To that effect, the Government will set up a claims process to reimburse employees for the out-of-pocket expenses incurred. This could include penalties for missed payments and insufficient fund charges.
Employees are asked to keep track of the expenses incurred. Once the process is set up, we’ll provide instructions on how to submit claims for reimbursement.
Last week, my colleague, the secretary of the Treasury Board, and I convened a meeting with all heads of human resources, chief financial officers and deputy ministers, and asked for feedback on pay issues faced by departments. We are compiling this information and will work to address these issues.
I was asked yesterday: so did employees get paid today? The answer to that question is that over 294,000 employees got their regular pay yesterday and close to 35,000 received other types of payments, such as extra duty pay.
Minister Foote and I visited the Miramichi Pay Centre yesterday and met with the hard-working employees there.
This visit gave us the chance to thank the staff for the excellent work they have done and continue to do.
We were able to acknowledge to Pay Centre staff that this situation is not of their making. And we expressed our appreciation for how they have collectively stepped up to ensure that public servants across the country receive the compensation they have earned.
We have made progress over the past week, but we still have a steep hill to climb. My message to employees is this: if you are having pay problems, please contact us so we can help you as quickly as possible.
And please, ask for a salary advance if you are facing financial distress because of this situation.
As well, talk to your manager about available support if you are having trouble coping with this situation. Financial challenges have a very real impact on people’s lives.
To conclude, I want to thank our departmental partners for their continuous support, and I want to thank all employees for your patience as we do what’s needed to fix this situation.
Thank you for your time.
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