Phoenix backlog for parental leave, disability benefits easing: Lemay

Marie Lemay, the deputy minister in charge of the troubled Phoenix pay system, is assuring public servants awaiting parental and disability payments that the government is finally approaching a "steady state" in processing their claims.

Government now processing more claims than it's receiving, Marie Lemay says

Deputy minister Marie Lemay said Wednesday that a new, automated process for acting pay claims should soon clear the large backlog of cases. (CBC)

Marie Lemay, the deputy minister in charge of the troubled Phoenix pay system, is assuring public servants awaiting parental and disability payments that the government is finally approaching a "steady state" in processing their claims.

The government has finally begun processing more transactions than it's receiving, Lemay said during a regular Phoenix update Wednesday. 

"This is a very important milestone. It means that both the wait times and the overall number of pay requests awaiting processing will decrease," said Lemay. 

There are currently 284,000 pay transactions that haven't been processed at the pay centre. That's almost a three-month backlog of work and not a huge difference from Feb.8 when there were 290,000 transactions in the queue. But Lemay says this month they should be able to make more progress. 

"I think we're at a turning point," said Lemay. "I think we're seeing now what some of the things we've done recently we're seeing the results of that. But there's a lot of work ahead." 

"I don't want today to sound like we're at the end of the road," Lemay added. 

Parental leave claims resolved by end of March

Lemay said that standard is on track to be met by the end of March for parental leave claims, and by end of April for disability claims. Those two priority areas were established in consultation with federal public service unions. 

"The vast majority of transactions at the pay centre that are outside of our service standards have been addressed and employees will start receiving their top-up payments by March 22," said Lemay. 

Complicated claims could take longer, she said. Public servants with other types of pay problems may have to wait until the end of the spring and summer to have their issued fixed. 

Acting pay requests now automated

As of last week, calculations for acting pay upgrades that used to require lengthy manual calculations are now automated, cutting down on the the processing time, Lemay said.

There are currently 100,000 transactions sitting in a backlog at the pay centre that involve acting pay. Workers should start receiving payments March 22, she said. 

With tax season in full swing, Randy Hewlett, acting director general of Canada Revenue Agency, reminded federal employees to contact the pay centre if they received overpayments so they can make arrangements to repay the amount and receive an amended 2016 T4.​

At the last update on Feb. 21, Public Services and Procurement Canada deputy minister Marie Lemay said about 50,000 tax slips were reissued and that more than 2,000 public servants had called the government's pay centre with tax-related questions.

The issues were supposed to have been resolved and correct slips issued by Feb. 28, Lemay said at the time. Public servants were asked to wait until Feb. 28 to print out their tax slips.

Dealing with financial hardship

So far, 438 public servants have submitted claims to be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses related to Phoenix, according to Alfred Tsang, executive director of Treasury Board's claims office.

Of those employees, 129 are requesting amounts above $500, Tsang said.

The department has been providing regular updates on the Phoenix system and its efforts to handle issues that have emerged since its rollout last year and tens of thousands of bureaucrats began reporting overpayments and underpayments.