Archived: Government of Canada update on the Phoenix pay system for January 25, 2017
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Good morning everyone, and thank you for joining us once again for an update on Phoenix.
As tax season approaches, we continue to focus on addressing overpayments to make sure that employee earnings are reported as accurately as possible.
I want to remind all employees who believe they have been overpaid to contact our Call Centre. This will ensure overpayments are handled as a priority. Our goal is to clear up as many of these cases as possible before tax slips are issued. For overpayments processed after this point, amended tax slips will be issued. Employees should know that the issuance of amended tax slips is a regular occurrence that happens every year for a number of reasons. On average, PSPC issues 8,000 amended tax slips every year.
Taxes can be complicated under normal circumstances, so we’ve taken special measures to support employees this year.
By mid-February, employees will have access to detailed information online about all payments they received in 2016. This will help them verify that their taxable earnings are correctly listed on their tax slips.
In addition, employees will be able to speak with someone so they can have all their questions answered. All our Call Centre agents are being trained to help employees understand how pay stub information relates to pay and deduction amounts listed on their tax slips. Employees who have more detailed questions about their earnings will receive a prompt call back from a specialized support group within Public Services and Procurement Canada. If needed, employees will also be connected with experts at the Canada Revenue Agency for tax questions. As well, employees can access help about taxes by visiting CRA’s website or by contacting its call centre.
My colleague, Randy Hewlett, is with us again today and will speak in a few minutes to explain the different measures in place to help employees who have concerns or questions about their individual situations.
In addition to focusing on cases with tax implications, we continue to reduce our backlog. There are now 7,000 employees with cases remaining in the backlog. All but 2,000 of these employees had at least one of their pay transactions completed. Most of the remaining cases involve acting pay, and we expect to close them over the next several pay periods.
I want to make one point very clear. Eliminating the backlog will be very important, but we now need to shift our focus toward improving service standards. Too many employees are waiting too long for pay.
Allow me to explain.
Pay Centre processing
Regular employee pay is issued on a bi-weekly schedule to close to 300,000 employees without any intervention from the Pay Centre.
However, every day, the Pay Centre receives requests for changes to someone’s regular pay, such as a stop (in the case of leave or termination), a restart (in the case of a return from leave) or an increase (in the case of allowances, promotions or actings).
As many of you know, since Phoenix was introduced, we have not been able to process these requests in a timely manner, and this is unacceptable.
As a result, we are only meeting our service standard 20 to 30% of the time. These delays are a result of an insufficient amount of compensation advisors to properly transition to the new system, the learning curve associated with the new system, as well as addressing the backlogged cases, which predate Phoenix. This is why we have fallen behind in treating new pay transactions. These time-consuming manual calculations diverted resources.
Public servants deserve much better and that's why we are making prompt processing the key priority moving forward. Our objective is to have requests processed within established service standards, which for most transactions is 20 days from the time they enter the pay centre.
Here is what we are doing:
- As we approach the completion of the backlog, we will soon begin reassigning compensation advisors to deal with incoming requests. Focusing our resources will enable us to process more requests so we can start bringing down wait times and clearing out late payments. In particular, we are focusing on parental and disability leave requests, which unions have asked us to prioritize.
- We are in the process of implementing technical enhancements so we can process pay transactions more quickly. We are also working with departments to identify opportunities allowing them to enter data into Phoenix that will further reduce processing times at the Pay Centre.
- With more resources and more efficient processing at the Pay Centre, employees throughout Government will notice an improvement in the speed with which they are paid.
- Finally, we are introducing new transparency measures to keep employees informed about the progress we are making. Starting the second week of February, we will post monthly information about pay performance online. Employees will be able to see how well the Pay Centre is progressing and meeting service standards.
Support for employees
I’d like to remind anyone experiencing financial hardship due to delayed payments that they can request salary support from their department. Our colleagues at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat recently contacted all deputy ministers to ensure that emergency salary advances and priority payments are being made available as broadly as possible.
It is hard to find positives associated with Phoenix, especially when employees continue to face pay issues. While the pace has been slow, we have seen some improvement. For example, today, 35,000 CRA employees received their second retroactive payment. This demonstrates that enhancements to allow Phoenix to handle collective agreement changes are working. In addition, we are seeing the benefits of system automation for certain kinds of transactions. Before Phoenix, wait times for overtime pay varied widely and employees could wait months before being paid. Now, as soon as most overtime transactions are entered by employees and approved, they appear on an employee’s next pay. They no longer come to the Pay Centre for processing.
Since July, over 120,000 employees have received upwards of half a billion dollars in overtime this way.
Let me conclude by sincerely thanking all employees for their patience. I wish there were a simpler, quicker way to fix all pay issues. We still have much to do, but as we shift our efforts toward wait times, progress will become increasingly evident.
I would like to recognize the important partnership we have developed with unions. We continue to benefit from their valued advice on how we can best support employees.
Finally, thank you to all of our dedicated compensation advisors across the country and our systems teams who are working hard and who continue to push through this difficult situation.
Marie Lemay, P.Eng., ing.
Public Services and Procurement Canada
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