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Queensland Health payroll debacle has a simple solution

By Graeme Haycroft - posted Wednesday, 3 May 2017

It has been four years since I retired from my business, which used to employ over 2000 people each week, but I still remember the basics of running a payroll for that many people.

It was not as big as the 35,000 or so nurses the Queensland Health pays each fortnight but the principles are the same.

The Courier-Mail’s front-page article on Monday about a new dud payroll system demonstrates nothing has been learnt since the Bligh government health payroll scandal.


While these decisions are left to people with no management or real-life experience, they will end up with duds.

The estimates of the $1.3 or $1.4 billion to try to fix Health’s payroll mess means that about $37,000 to $38,000 has been spent on this project for each one of Queensland’s 35,000 nurses.

How much better if that money had been spent paying our nurses properly.

So what, if anything, can be done about it?

The solution is simple, but with lots of important people likely to lose their jobs if the system changes, they will all have no compunction in telling outright lies to defend their livelihoods.

However, Health’s ongoing payroll debacle was caused by the Bligh government allowing its Health HR people to negotiate the enterprise bargaining agreements with HR people from the Queensland Nurses Union.


This was the first mistake, because none of these people had nursing or management experience, they didn’t understand how health workplaces are supposed to work and, most importantly, they had no idea of the technical capabilities of payroll systems that were supposed to pay people according to the agreements they had negotiated.

If you go to your local computer shop, you can buy proprietary payroll programs such as MYOB and QuickBooks for less than $1000.

These programs can theoretically handle unlimited numbers of employees, but they only handle 10 or so payroll variables for each employee, such as ordinary pay, over time at 1.5, double time, meal and travel allowances etc.

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About the Author

Graeme Haycroft is the executive director of the Nurses Professional Association of Australia.

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All articles by Graeme Haycroft

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