Novopay pushes school to the edge

By Nathan Crombie of the Wairarapa Times-Age -
Solway Primary School principal Gail Marshall. Photo / Nathan Crombie
Solway Primary School principal Gail Marshall. Photo / Nathan Crombie

A Wairarapa school principal says ongoing failures in the Novopay system have pushed her and her school to breaking point.

Solway Primary School principal Gail Marshall said she was dealing with pay errors every day alongside her office manager and spending up to 10 hours a week correcting mistakes despite Ministry of Education assurances the system was working.

"Everything is still as chaotic and painful as it ever was," she said.

There are 22 workers on the school payroll, and half a dozen have had huge issues with their wages since Novopay launched in August.

One full-time teacher at the school has had no wages since August, after the woman took leave without pay earlier this year and Novopay wiped her from the system.

"She was owed $9000 and was finally paid last week. But even then it was wrong and she's still owed money," Mrs Marshall said.

Another teacher, who declined to be named, said she has been short paid since August and the school had been bridging the gap.

The woman, who has three young children, said she is owed at least $4000.

"You can't comprehend just how epic it is. I have children and it's essential for them that I get paid. It has this terrible ripple effect on everything."

The woman broke down in tears at the school this week after discovering her latest payment was again botched despite ministry guarantees.

"I have no confidence in them at all now. It just keeps happening. The insecurity is phenomenal."

Mrs Marshall has two teacher aides and two other teachers at the school who have had endured botched payments since the start of the term and the school could not continue to meet the shortfall as coffers are quickly emptying.

"Things are getting desperate. I had to pay these people from our school operating grant and we're running out of money," Mrs Marshall said.

"This is at crisis point for us and I guess many other schools. It is an absolute disgrace."

Mrs Marshall was mired in the end-of-year payroll reports that were due yesterday and said there seems little likelihood Novopay failures will be resolved in time for Christmas payouts.

Rebecca Elvy, Education Ministry group manager, said on Tuesday that more than 800 schools across New Zealand had completed their end-of-year reports and a specialist ministry team has been established to provide extra help for schools with reports still outstanding.

Ms Elvy said the ministry and payroll provider Talent2 had put a lot into "getting it right for the staff whose Christmas pay hinges on these particular reports".

Talent2 group head John Rawlinson yesterday apologised for "the inconvenience that payment disruptions and inaccuracies have had on New Zealand teachers, principals, support staff, and their respective schools".

He said the company was confident Novopay "is on track to efficiently and securely process future transactions and ensure staff are paid correctly, on time and with their personal details protected".

Education secretary Lesley Longstone yesterday assured key sector leaders in Wellington that progress is being made with the new payroll system.

She said the ministry and Talent2 are committed "to doing everything possible to ensure Christmas payments will go through as expected".

Paul Drummond, New Zealand Principals' Federation president, said the system had cost taxpayers $29 million and was troubled from the start.

"Staff expected a few teething problems and showed much tolerance and patience but with the continual unresolved and newly emerging issues they now question whether Novopay can ever be fixed," Mr Drummond said.

Read more:

Payroll boss says sorry to teachers, staff
Ministry to reimburse schools for Novopay issues
School secretary still awaiting first pay

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