15 Feb 2014

Schools 'have had enough' of Novopay

6:47 am on 15 February 2014

The Principals Federation says primary schools have had enough of their troubled payroll system and the Government should acknowledge that Novopay can't be fixed.

Steven Joyce.

Steven Joyce. Photo: RNZ

Principals are angry at what they say is an unacceptably large number of mistakes in the most recent school pay round. They also say it is clear that problems with the much-maligned Novopay are continuing and it's time to talk about replacing it.

The federation says 500 of 700 principals who responded to a survey about Novopay said mistakes from previous pay rounds have still not been fixed. They said 4300 staff were paid incorrectly last week - a figure it says is unacceptably high.

Federation president Philip Harding said on Friday that principals are very frustrated.

"This is now going to involve the next two or three pay periods of checking to see if the errors have been reversed and that everything's balanced back to zero, that superannuation payments have been sorted out, that tax deductions have been done correctly, student loan payments have been done correctly.

"It all has a cumulative effect in the pay periods downstream, and the anecdotal comments were one of absolute frustration."

The federation acknowledged that the start of the school year was always tricky, regardless of which payroll system is delivering the money. However, it said schools had hoped this year would be a big improvement after all the work that has gone into fixing problems with Novopay.

Mr Harding said the number of incorrect payments is too high. "It's an average of about six people per school whose pay is wrong and that's a staggeringly high number. We always expect the first pay period of the year to have a few issues, a few challenges, but this exceeds our worst fears."

Mr Harding said the figures were higher than reported by the Government because not all staff notice or report their pay problems immediately.

But the minister responsible for Novopay says outdated school business practices are to blame for the high rate of mistakes in the most recent school pay round.

Mr Joyce said on Friday the problem is the way schools hire their staff from year to year requires manual changes to their pay details.

"The business processes of the education payroll means at the start of the year roughly just under two-thirds of all employees have to have information changed and a lot of that, in fact most of that is manual."

Mr Joyce said changing that will require principals and other groups to agree to changes in the way schools work.