News in Brief

A look at news, facts and figures shaping the world of payroll professionals

Quebec backtracks on eligibility age for tax credit

› QUEBEC CITY  The eligibility age for claiming a tax credit in Quebec for age, living alone and retirement income is going back to being 65 years, the Quebec Finance Ministry recently announced.

Employees may claim the tax credit on a Source Deductions Return (TP-1015.3-V). Until 2016, the minimum age for claiming the credit was 65 years. In 2015, the provincial government said it would gradually raise the age from 65 to 70 between 2016 and 2020, with it increasing to 66 in 2016, 67 in 2017, 68 in 2018, 69 in 2019, and 70 in 2020.

With the ministry’s announcement, the eligibility age will return to 65 years retroactive to 2016. The ministry did not go into detail on why it made the change other than to say it addresses concerns raised by older residents.

 

B.C. plans to reduce MSP premiums

› VICTORIA  —The British Columbia government plans to reduce and eventually eliminate premiums for its Medical Services Plan (MSP).

In this year’s budget, tabled Feb. 21, Finance Minister Michael de Jong announced that as of next January, the government would cut premiums for provincial health coverage by 50 per cent for households with annual net incomes of up to $120,000.

He said the reduction would be a first step towards eventually eliminating premiums, although de Jong did not specify when that might occur, noting that the timing and the way premiums are eliminated would depend on the economy.

Employees who pay premiums through their employer’s group plan or whose employer pays their premiums for them as a taxable benefit would have to register for the premium reduction with the group plan administrator.

Residents whose earnings are above the $120,000 threshold will continue to pay MSP premiums of $75 a month for a single adult and $150 a month for an adult couple.

 

PSAC calls for Phoenix contingency fund

› OTTAWA  —A union representing federal government employees is calling on the government to create a $75-million contingency fund to help federal departments and agencies deal with problems related to its Phoenix pay system.

“It has become clear that federal departments and agencies require additional human resource capacity, as well as continuous training, in order to adjust to the changes required by Phoenix,” said Robyn Benson, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), in a letter to union members.

“If departments are not resourced properly to address these new roles, Phoenix will never be fixed,” she said.

The federal government has been struggling with its new payroll system since it began rolling out over a year ago. Thousands of workers have been overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all. Public Services and Procurement Canada, the department responsible for paying employees, has also had difficulty processing pay requests on time.

In addition, the department had problems with year-end reporting in February.

“Some Relevé 1 tax slips for employees who live or work in Quebec listed incorrect taxable benefits information,” said Marie Lemay, deputy minister for the department.

“We also encountered an issue with health benefits being reported in the wrong box in T4 slips for employees who work in British Columbia.”

Lemay said the department discovered the problems and took steps to correct them before the Feb. 28 deadline for filing T4s and RL-1s.

In recent public briefings, Lemay said the department is focusing on clearing up a backlog of employees with outstanding pay issues, reassigning compensation advisors and implementing technical enhancements to help bring down payroll processing times, as well as taking steps to recover overpayments to workers.

Benson said the government needs to do more to ensure the problems are fixed.

“When Phoenix launched, and the problems began, PSAC urged the new Liberal government to delay the final rollout until these problems were resolved. Sadly, the government didn’t listen,” she said.

“We know the Liberal government has other modernization plans for the federal public service, including a new human resources system. The government needs to learn the lessons from Phoenix. That means listening to the people doing the work and the unions that represent them.”

 

Ontario reviewing Fair Wage Policy

› TORONTO  —The Ontario government is reviewing its Fair Wage Policy with a plan to update it to better reflect the province’s changing workforce.

The policy sets standards on wages and working conditions for contractors to protect them from unfair competition when bidding on government contracts for services such as building cleaning, security, and construction.

“An updated Fair Wage Policy will ensure that workers on those government contracts are being treated fairly and all contractors are on a level playing field,” said Labour Minister Kevin Flynn.

 

Worker happiness drops after first year: Survey

› MENLO PARK, Calif.  —Professionals working for an employer for between one and two years are less happy, less interested and more stressed than those still in their first year of work, a new survey finds.

The study, from staffing firm Robert Half and analytics firm Happiness Works, found that workers on the job less than one year scored 73 on a 100-point scale, with zero being least happy and 100 being most happy. In contrast, for those working at their job one to two years, the level dropped to 69.6.

For first-year employees, interest in the job rated 73.5 on the scale, compared to 71.4 for workers with one to two years’ experience. When it came to stress, workers in their first year on the job had a score of 53.5 out of 100, with zero being most stressed and 100 being least stressed. The number dropped to 50.9 for employees who had been on the job for one to two years.

“Once they get past year one, the honeymoon appears to be over for many professionals,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half. “After 12 months on the job, employees are expected to work more autonomously and take on added responsibility. At the same time, aspects of the job that at first seemed novel and interesting may lose their luster.”

After three or more years on the job, the study found that happiness levels edge back up and interest levels increase. Employees with 21 or more years on the job showed the highest level of interest in their jobs, reaching 74.4 on the scale.

The study also reported that 70 per cent of workers surveyed said both employers and employees are responsible for employee happiness and interest at work.

The study is based on an independent survey of more than 12,000 workers in Canada and the United States.

 

Average weekly earnings up in December: StatsCan 

› OTTAWA — Average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees were $971 in December, up from $961.75 in November, Statistics Canada reports. On a year-over-year basis, weekly earnings were up 1.2 per cent from December 2015. 

Non-farm payroll employees worked an average of 32.8 hours a week in December, little changed from November, but down from 33.3 hours in December 2015. 

Year-over-year earnings of non-farm payroll employees increased in six provinces, with Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick experiencing the most growth. Earnings declined in Alberta and were little changed in Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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