Novopay can't cope with calls

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2014

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Principals say the new school year has been plagued with further Novopay problems, leaving staff just as stressed as they have been through the 18-month debacle.

And adding insult to injury are new problems with contacting the hotline set up to help solve school pay issues.

Frankley School principal Damon Ritai says staff are spending valuable hours trying to overcome errors caused by the payroll software.

Last week the school had to fork money out of its operation grants to pay three staff members, Mr Ritai said.

Novopay went live on August 2012 but ran into issues ranging from underpaying to overpaying staff members.

Mr Ritai said the problems were starting to be a real nuisance.

"We're talking about families who haven't been paid," he said. "They have mortgages and bills to pay and kids to look after."

Office administrator Robyn King was "very stressed out" managing the "dysfunctional" pay system, Mr Ritai said.

"She is quite a busy person and having to chase up mistakes and errors chews up time."

Ms King said trying to get in touch with the Novopay Service Centre was her biggest frustration.

"This week I tried ringing them twice but I get messages to say ‘we are experiencing heavy loads'," Ms King said.

Spotswood Primary principal Allan Day

was just as frustrated with the call centre.

"They don't take calls and you get an answer phone but don't get a call back," he said. "You often don't get a call back until days later."

The delayed response affected payment dates, and more timewas spent rectifying the problem, Mr Day said. "Very rarely a pay period has gone by without a glitch."

The Novopay Service Centre team acknowledged problems of long wait times. The busiest times were in the morning and during lunchtime with fewer calls after 1pm, the team said. Calls would be "answered more quickly" after peak hours.

Minister Responsible for Novopay Steven Joyce said there was "no quick fix" to remediating Novopay.

"But good progress has been made in stabilising and remediating the system," he said.

"It's running a lot better than this time last year."

Mr Joyce said the current three pay period, including the next one in a fortnight, were the most difficult because it incorporated the "start of year", when there were changes for 60 to 65 per cent of all staff.

"I have been clear that they are a significant hurdle," he said.

He also said a project to simplify the pay was under way and it would need the support of the sector unions.

A regional support network of 80 payroll specialists and nine payroll advisers has been established by the Education Ministry in a bid to better support all schools.

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NZEI national secretary Paul Goulter said Novopay "continues to fail" hard-working school support staff, teachers and principals.

Mr Goulter also said the school payroll was "no more complex" this year than last year.

"No matter how much the minister promotes self-service online and a help desk, the system itself is so flawed that it is causing unprecedented problems, stress, time and money," he said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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