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Davis, California

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

UC Davis prepares for UC-wide payroll system despite issues at other UC campuses

Resources for students, staff to better transition to UCPath program

On April 1, UC Davis, Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Berkeley will begin using UCPath, a new payroll system aimed at standardizing pay and benefits across the UC system. Four schools –– Riverside, Merced, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara –– have already converted, facing program and processing issues affecting student pay for a number of months. In preparation for the transition, UC Davis campus administrators recommended that employees review their personal information and utilize direct deposit to avert avoidable financial disruptions.

UC Davis is moving forward with the implementation of UCPath, hoping to learn from errors at other UC campuses and provide better support for student employees. The system will begin issuing paychecks on April 1, and UC Davis employees can choose to receive their paychecks through direct deposit or by mail to their listed home address; local paycheck pickup at each department will no longer be an option.

“An important thing students can do is to seriously consider moving to direct deposit,” said Kelly Ratliff, the Vice Chancellor at UC Davis. “In UCPath, all paychecks will be mailed out on payday, so we don’t want people to have that delay. If there is an error, we can resolve the error much more quickly if you have direct deposit –– days more quickly than if you don’t.”

At the time of publication, 2,577 students were still receiving paper paychecks, which constitutes 65 percent of all university employees receiving physical payment. To avoid some initial processing errors, employees can switch to direct deposit online, which will only begin three to four weeks after initial activation. On other campuses, delays in payment have risen due to such errors like late submission of timesheets, misreporting of bank information, incorrect mailing address and undocumented change in marital status, among others.

“We had a little bit more flexibility with the old system, but with the new system, those deadlines really matter,” Ratliff said. “We need people to have good practices about submitting time and recording their time in a timely manner.”

Matt Okamoto, the UC Davis controller, also attributed some of the issues at other campuses to inherent inaccuracies during data conversion from the old to the new system. Okamoto noted that converting student pay data is especially complex as students work variable hours and sometimes even multiple positions.

“As we are preparing to convert our data at Davis, we’re paying special attention to our student employees to try to make sure that we are catching any errors beforehand by doing special test runs just for our student employee population so that hopefully we can get in front of any conversion errors that come up,” Okamoto said.

Once UCPath is deployed, the school will provide a command center on campus with representatives from the central payroll office and the central human resources office to answer questions. However, all employees who encounter an issue with their paycheck should immediately contact their department to report the problem.

Some UCs with an earlier deployment date faced system problems, such as social security taxes being incorrectly withheld from some student employees. Since then, UCPath Center has reported that all program errors have been fixed; however, processing and conversion errors persist. Affected campuses have been utilizing loaded pay cards and same-day or overnight checks to compensate impacted students.

“Ninety-nine percent of UC employees have been paid accurately and on time,” said Claire Doan, the director of media relations for the California Office of the President, via email. “That said, we know this is very difficult for those impacted, and we empathize with students’ concerns and frustrations.”

Due to the UC system’s large population, the 1 percent of affected workers still amounts to a significant number of individuals working without pay. Student employees have been noticeably more affected than faculty members, who often have fixed salaries. Extreme cases include students dropped from their classes or unable to afford payments such as rent or mortgage, according to The Daily Bruin.

UCSB, which initiated UCPath in September of 2018, had particular problems with graduate students seeing more discrepancies in pay. The discrepancies ranged from missing paychecks to being paid three-to-four times the correct amount. Cierra Raine Sorin, the president of the UCSB Graduate Student Association, faced thousands of dollars in overpayment and described the situation as a “nightmare” despite campus administration’s best efforts.

“UCPath system was not designed for graduate student positions,” Sorin said. “Grad students have a lot of changeover in the jobs that they take because every quarter you are in a new position, even if it’s the same kind of job. Graduate students have been impacted much more heavily than any other community.”

The system deployed in UC Riverside in January of 2018, and processing errors as well as system errors plagued the campus. Despite resolving initial issues, more arose in May with the first paycheck of Spring Quarter, as the majority of graduate students shifted positions for the quarter. Sorin expressed her concerns for the upcoming February paycheck, the first payday of UCSB’s winter quarter.

Many of these observed issues may not occur at UC Davis, as they may be unique to each campus, but others are still unforeseen, in spite of the administration’s precautionary measures.

“[The campuses are] all running effectively different payroll systems even though they use the same program,” Okamoto said. “Each campus has customized it so the errors we’ve been seeing can very well be unique to the individual campus because their program might have been set up special, and when you run the conversion, it didn’t quite take appropriately.”

Errors during deployment are to be expected but need to be handled effectively and efficiently.

“We want folks to know that we’re going to work as hard as we can and have things as smoothly as possible,” Ratliff said. “If when we go live and folks notice an error, they need to notify us immediately.”

Written by: Renee Hoh — city@theaggie.org

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that UC Davis, UC Irvine and UC Berkeley will begin using UCPath on March 1. That is incorrect. UC Davis, Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Berkeley will begin using UCPath on April 1. An earlier version also stated that Kelly Ratliff is the Senior Associate Vice Chancellor at UC Davis. That is incorrect. Ratliff is the Vice Chancellor. The article has been updated to reflect these changes. The Aggie regrets the error.

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