Colette Langlois was appointed as the NWT's first ombud in April 2019. Photo: Submitted
The NWT’s ombud says the territorial government must do more to issue records of employment within federally mandated timelines.
In a report published this week, ombud Colette Langlois said the latest GNWT figures show only two in every five records of employment were issued within five business days.
Regulations require that records be issued within five calendar days.
“While many employers likely find the five-day turnaround difficult, of all employers governments should be expected to set an example,” Langlois stated in a news release.
“Compliance with laws and legal requirements is one of the basic standards of administrative fairness. Public servants should be able to count on their employer to meet that standard.”
Records of employment must be provided to workers after they leave a job. Without their record of employment, people cannot apply for employment insurance.
Part of the problem is the sheer number of records involved, the ombud found.
“Staff advised us that it takes from 45 minutes to 90 minutes to complete an accurate final pay review and record of employment,” Langlois wrote in her report.
There were 4,089 records of employment issued in 2020-21. At an average of 60 minutes per record, Langlois wrote, this would require that each of nine senior accounting clerks spend 65 work days that year on records of employment alone.
Those clerks are already given approximately 52 work days each year to handle records of employment, meaning a shortfall of 13 work days per clerk without allowing for problems like clerks being on leave, vacancies, or training of new staff. (Three of the nine clerk positions were vacant at the time the ombud’s office investigated the issue.)
“Staff advised us that they did not believe it was possible to streamline the process any further without sacrificing accuracy. The also observed that payroll staff were working at full speed and completing as large a volume of work as possible,” Langlois wrote.
She made three recommendations: a review of staffing levels, a change in job descriptions to accurately reflect the work payroll staff do, and consideration of “long-term options that would eventually make compliance with federal regulations possible.”
In a written response, finance minister Caroline Wawzonek said her department “agrees in general” with those recommendations.
“We agree it is important to improve the overall results of transaction processing for records of employment,” Wawzonek wrote.
“We will work towards meeting the timelines in federal regulations as quickly as possible and continue to keep it as a priority for the division and the department.”