Delegates to Fórsa’s Civil Service Division conference which took place in Killarney last week, called for a review of a centralised HR shared services system, commonly known as ‘PeoplePoint,’ after a union study showed that 83% of civil servants surveyed had experienced problems with it. Motions to the conference also called for PeoplePoint to be scrapped, and for HR services to be returned to individual departments and agencies.
More than half of the 1,079 civil servants who responded to Fórsa’s survey said their pay had been affected by problems encountered with PeoplePoint. Another 18% said their sick pay had been affected, and 6% said pension payments had been hit.
The largest single problem encountered was overpayments, which staff must repay (23%), followed by problems with sick leave reconciliation (21%), annual leave (19%), payment of increments (17%), pay adjustments following promotion (13.5%), underpayments (9%), pensions and parental leave (7% each).
Some 67% said there were delays resolving their problem and 53% complained of poor communications. While 31% said they were satisfied with the way their query had been processed and resolved, 37% said they were not. Almost a third said they were still awaiting an outcome.
Only 15% said they had registered a formal complaint, with over half saying they were unaware of complaints procedures.
Fórsa official Derek Mullen said systemic problems with the system meant staff working in PeoplePoint were in an impossible situation, a sentiment reflected in many of the ten conference motions on the subject submitted by union branches. “That PeoplePoint works at all is down to the dedication of the civil servants employed there. They’ve had an extraordinarily difficult time in recent years as they try to make a poorly designed system function.
“But the problem of overpayments, which has reached epidemic proportions, is causing great suffering to many civil servants, including many in vulnerable financial circumstances, who have to repay money they do not have,” he said. Civil servants who are overpaid have to return the money within a year or less.
“The extensive underpayments and unprecedented delays in paying people their correct salary once they are appointed or promoted is equally problematic. It’s difficult to identify a single aspect of PeoplePoint activity that has not given rise to problems,” Mullen continued.
Survey respondents also acknowledged that PeoplePoint staff are working under excessively stressful conditions, but they expressed frustration that issues previously dealt with in good time by local HR departments now took much longer to resolve.
Mr Mullen said the project, which was introduced in 2013 to save €2.5 million a year through staff cuts, was launched before it was ready. “The IT systems were not fully developed and service level agreements between PeoplePoint and line departments were unrealistic and lacked penalties.
“The staffing requirements were poorly understood, and the organisation had an overreliance on temporary staff from the outset. Our members in PeoplePoint also report a lack of adequate training for new staff who, with ever-increasing workloads, get little more than ‘on the job’ instruction. As if the system is not difficult enough to navigate, staff aren’t being given the tools to do the job,” he said.
The system is also unable to recognise the attendance patterns of shift workers and others with atypical working arrangements. As a result, these employees have effectively had no HR service in recent years.
Fórsa said it was prompted to conduct its survey on foot of a huge number of complaints from members, as well as senior management’s denial of the systemic nature of the problem. The union has received no response to its request for a meeting with the Civil Service Management Board to discuss the matter.
See the results of Fórsa’s PeoplePoint survey here