Novopay 'a trainwreck' - principal

Nelson schools say they are frustrated with the problem-ridden Novopay system and have lost trust in it.

The school payroll system has caused havoc for school staff across New Zealand over the last few years, and staff told the Nelson Mail it continues to do so.

Staff are paid fortnightly through the system and school administrators had already spent hours trying to address problems with staff payments issued so far this year.

Nelson College headmaster Gary O'Shea was preparing a strongly-worded letter to the Ministry of Education about the issues that had plagued the school since Novopay was introduced in March 2012.

He said the Novopay system was "a trainwreck".

They had hundreds of historical errors that had not been addressed and this year had seen other random errors come up.

"New problems keep getting created out of nowhere," he said.

He said the system had cost the school tens of thousands of dollars, and they had to employ someone to specifically deal with Novopay problems that included allowances not being paid out and three new staff who had not been paid at all this year.

"In software terms, Novopay is a dog, and that's an insult to dogs," he said.

He said all across the country Novopay was creating a huge cost to schools, in terms of the stress it caused to staff and the hours schools had to spend attempting to fix the issues.

Nelson College for Girls principal Cathy Ewing said she had been underpaid this year as had some of her staff.

"We are still having issues, it's not as bad as last year but there are ongoing issues."

Mrs Ewing said the whole process was "frustrating" and the helpline that school staff were told to call was anything but helpful, calls were not returned, and there was never any consistency in help offered.

This was the second pay this year through Novopay, and Mrs Ewing said the same issues were repeated. Five of her staff were affected and she also had a "significant" amount missing from her pay this week.

Executive PA at Nayland College Bev Williams had spent her weekend trying to sort out payments for staff at Nayland. She said they had "quite a number of issues".

She had to correct over- and under-payments, and allowances for support staff taking extra courses for their work.

She said there were about 20 staff who had been affected so far this year at Nayland.

There were issues that were not addressed from last year's Novopay mistakes which made this round a "double whammy", she said.

She had to spend her weekend going through the staff payslips and payrolls and manually filling out forms so Novopay could try to correct the mistakes.

Mrs Williams had lost faith in their helpline. "When you ring up the call centre they can't deal with it, we can't trust them."

National secretary of teachers' union NZEI, Paul Goulter, said this year's second pay cycle had left 350 principals across the country underpaid along with reports of multiple other under-payments and errors.

Education Minister Steven Joyce blamed errors on data entry and the complexity of the school payroll.

However, Mr Goulter said it was clear the errors lay with Novopay and its software systems and said the school payroll was no more complex this year than last year.

"The school workforce has been patient for more than a year, but that patience is fast running out."