Phoenix update: Parental leave claims under control, disability claims not so much

Phoenix update: Parental leave claims under control, disability claims not so much

The federal department in charge of the troubled Phoenix pay system says parental leave pay requests by public servants are now being handled at the normal rate, but that disability pay requests continue to be managed too slowly.

Meanwhile, there are about 284,000 pay transactions that are still awaiting processing, all of which have been in the queue for more than 20 days. That's almost a three-month backlog of work.

That's the same amount listed a month ago, when Public Services and Procurement Canada gave its last update on the troubled pay system.

A month ago Marie Lemay, the deputy minister in charge of the Phoenix system, said the government was finally processing more transactions than it was receiving and was on track to meet their service standards for parental leave claims by the end of March.

Lemay also said they hoped to meet their standards for disability claims by the end of April. Those two priority areas were established in consultation with federal public service unions.

On Wednesday morning, during a briefing in Ottawa, Lemay said 95 per cent of parental leave requests are now being handled within 20 working days, a service standard she refers to as the "steady state" for handling claims. 

She asked anyone with requests that haven't been dealt with in 20 days to get in touch with the pay centre.

Only 37% of disability requests handled on time

As for disability leave requests, Lemay said only 37 per cent of them are being handled within 20 days, which is down from 43 per cent last month. Lemay said that's because pay centre employees are processing older, complicated cases.

But the government remains committed to getting up to steady state by the end of April, she added.

Once those two priorities are met, the government will shift focus to other types of pay requests in consultation with federal public service unions, among others. Eventually, in the medium- to long-term, workers will shift to an employee-centric model that allows pay centre workers to focus on all the needs of each employee, rather than individual types of requests.

"We are making ongoing progress, steadily improving and moving toward a more reliable pay system, but we're also very, very aware that we still have a lot of work ahead of us. And we are determined to address all the pay issues and get to a steady state as soon as possible," Lemay said.

200 people calling with tax questions per day

With tax season underway, Lemay said the pay centre is getting about 200 calls per day from workers who have questions about their taxes.

Randy Hewitt, director general of the Canada Revenue Agency, said CRA appreciates the "concern and anxiety" felt by public servants with tax season underway.

He also reminded employees that anyone who needs an amended tax slip still need to file their taxes on time with their original T4, but that they don't need to do anything else — the government shares all amended T4s with CRA directly.

Since federal workers had their files moved to a consolidated pay system called Phoenix last spring, tens of thousands of workers, retirees and employees on leave have reported problems with their pay, with some being overpaid, some paid too little and some not at all.

The government responded by bolstering staff at a pay centre in Miramichi, N.B., and setting up several satellite centres to help deal with the backlog of claims. But employees, former employees and contractors continued to report issues even as the government was investing more money in fixing the problems.