EoY/SoY a critical time of year

Issue: Volume 93, Number 19

Posted: 28 October 2014
Reference #: 1H9csS

The most critical time in the schools’ payroll calendar is upon us again.

The End-of-Year/Start-of-Year process can be a challenging time for school payroll administrators. There is not one single payroll, but around 2,500 individual payrolls (one for each school) involving a set of complex, inter-related business rules. There are more than 1,500 unique rates of pay possible across all agreements. Taking account of the variety of allowances, leave provisions, and other employment conditions with impacts on pay, the number of possible permutations for individual pays can be as high as 10,000.

Here to tell us more about EoY/SoY and what to expect this year is Rebecca Elvy, associate deputy secretary, Education Payroll Services.

How did last year’s EoY event go?

“The EoY event in late 2013 was successful and largely incident free. The intensive support provided to schools, including assisted data entry, training, and outbound calling, meant that schools successfully completed the process on time and online where possible. The service centre coped with the influx of calls and forms. Volumes were not significantly higher than normal. There were very few pay-impacting errors.”

What about SoY?

“The SoY event was less satisfactory. A lower number of pay instructions were completed online than expected. This was partially due to the need for administrators to fill in forms manually in certain circumstances or because employment decisions were made after the SoY screens were closed off.

This resulted in more of the instructions being submitted to the service centre when schools returned in late January. The sheer volume of instructions overwhelmed the under-prepared service centre.”

What did that look like?

“Pay instructions to the service centre were not processed in a timely fashion. A higher than expected number of over-, under-, or non-payments occurred for several subsequent pay periods as a result. The knock-on impact to clear the back-log was significant for authorised users, school employees, Talent2, and the Ministry.”

Is there anything different about the EoY/SoY process this year?

“Yes. We are implementing a range of changes and improvements to make it easier for schools to instruct the service centre when payroll changes are needed; we are making a big effort to encourage schools to provide payroll instructions earlier to the service centre to smooth out peaks; we are putting additional resources in place to ensure that these instructions are processed accurately and on time and new processes to prevent the need to submit payroll instructions in certain circumstances.”

How did you decide which improvements to prioritise?

“The approach this year is to build on lessons learned in 2013/14, focusing on areas that will have the most impact on improving the EoY/SoY experience for schools. Intensive support, training, and assisted data entry will be provided again this year. Form improvements, the technology changes, and a more ready service centre are new for this year. We also wanted to ensure we didn’t change too much so the processes are as familiar as possible.”

How will things be made easier for schools?

“A number of improvements are being made to make it easier for schools to complete EoY/SoY activities including:

  • simplified guidance material on the Novopay website to explain the work required during EoY/SoY to authorised users
  • implementing a new website tool to make choosing the right allowance codes easier, as incorrect codes are a common mistake on forms
  • high volume forms that have been identified as often being incorrect or incomplete are being improved to make them easier to complete
  • implementing a new SoY report that highlights the pay ending dates of employees so that it is very clear to authorised users where the areas of urgent action are
  • supporting those who need the most help by providing assisted data entry and access to Education Payroll Advisers (EPAs). This support will be provided for longer than last year through the SoY period. The focus of this support is to ensure schools use the online channel as much as possible.”

What is the biggest single barrier to a smooth-running EoY/SoY?

“All aspects of the process are important. We know that resourcing up the service centre will help ensure it can cope with the volume of forms coming in. However, from past experience, it is clear that if we encourage schools to submit pay change instructions earlier (before the end of the school year), this will significantly reduce processing peaks that occur early in the new year. Turning around rejected forms in a timely manner will also be a big help.”

What is the single most important message you would like to share for this EoY/SoY?

“The earlier the better! You don’t need to wait for screens to open to submit SoY forms – get them done now before Christmas so you can go and enjoy your holidays without this hanging over your head.”

How can school leaders play a role in ensuring things go as smoothly as possible?

“Administrators won’t be able to complete the EoY/SoY process until staffing decisions are made by senior leaders – they play a key role. School leaders can lead the way in communicating all staffing changes/developments to administrators as early as possible. The more we can do before the end of the year, the better prepared we will be. Identify and communicate as early as possible about your staffing decisions for the new school year to enable your administrators to submit those changes before the Christmas shut-down. In many cases, you’ll know who is returning, but we understand that this may not always be practical.”

What sort of support is available for administrators?

“A comprehensive training programme has begun for administrators. This covers all aspects of EoY/SoY. In addition, those with the highest need have access to assisted data entry from experts and access to a nationwide network of education payroll advisors (EPAs). This support will be provided for longer than last year through the SoY period. The focus of this support is to ensure schools use the online channel as much as possible.”

Have you increased resources at the service centre?

“Yes, there will be more staff at the service centre with more resource to cope with the high call and instruction volumes throughout the EoY/SoY period. We will also be monitoring this very closely so that we can respond quickly if volumes are higher than expected.”

What impact will the changeover to the new company have on this EoY/SoY?

“Only a positive one. The new company has identified EoY/SoY as a priority. The directors understand and appreciate how critical it is to make sure the most busy period in the schools’ payroll calendar runs as smoothly as it can to ensure that teachers and support staff are paid accurately and on time.”

Do you want to hear from administrators how EoY/SoY went for them after the 2014/15 period is over?

“Absolutely. Feedback from administrators, schools, principals and anyone who has been involved in the EoY/SoY process is invaluable. We will use this feedback to again shape improvements for next time around.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 7:32 pm, 28 October 2014

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