Lorna McKenzie [HREF1], eBusiness Manager, Office of Industrial Relations, NSW Department of Commerce, PO Box 847, Darlinghurst NSW 1300. Email: Lorna.McKenzie@oir.commerce.nsw.gov.au
Douglas Jordan, Director, Hinterlands Consultancy Pty. Limited, Unit 28, Hills Corporate Centre, 11-13 Brookhollow Avenue, Baulkham Hills 2153. Email: email@example.com
On 29 September 2003, Check Your Pay was released on the Office of Industrial Relations (OIR), NSW Department of Commerce, website [HREF1]. It permits users to calculate annual leave, long service leave and minimum award entitlements for workers in NSW's four largest State awards (the Shop Employees, Restaurant Employees, Hairdressers, and Administrative and Clerical Employees Awards). It is the first on-line calculator of its type provided by an Australian labour agency.
Check Your Pay is an on-line calculator developed around the NSW award-based industrial relations system, which covers an estimated 1.4 million workers in NSW.
Check Your Pay uses a question and answer approach to guide a user through the complexity of award pay rates, annual leave and long service leave entitlements. At this time, it is based on NSW's four largest State awards and covers people working in restaurants, shops, hair and beauty salons or in clerical and administration jobs. Other awards are currently in development.
The Check Your Pay questions enable a user to:
The tool is primarily designed for employers and employees in NSW, but can also used by accountants, solicitors, employer associations and unions.
The online calculators help employers to calculate an employee's wages to ensure they comply with the award and their legal obligations. Greater awareness of the correct remuneration payable under NSW awards helps to increase levels of compliance, enabling OIR inspectors to focus more on education rather than prosecution. This also has the benefit of improving workplace relations.
The enhanced access provided by interactive wages information on the OIR website ensures that both employees and employers have equitable access to information at a time that suits them.
These benefits can be measured by comparative use of the on-line wages calculator and any increase in the levels of compliance noted through targeted industry campaigns.
Check Your Pay is a further step in continuously improving OIR's online service delivery. Other OIR online services include Awards Online and Pay Rate Updates. These services combine to make OIR a one-stop-shop for NSW award information.
Further to this, Check Your Pay extends and reinforces the NSW Government's strategic direction for information technology and communications.
The idea behind Check Your Pay was to design a calculator that reduced basic award rules to simple mathematical calculations. However, it was soon apparent that this would be challenging due to the relative complexity of some awards. Something that a human does with ease (after years of skills enhancement) was not easy to replicate into programming language.
When the awards were broken into simple calculation rules there appeared to be an infinite number of possibilities. Awards vary significantly and no general set of rules is applicable to all awards. It was a major challenge to build an administrative tool that could be used by OIR staff to develop further awards in the Check Your Pay system.
Using an iterative approach meant that system designs were altered as new requirements came on board. This caused frustrations as staff learned to work with one application and then needed to adapt to a new application when the next iteration came on line.
Developing a totally new concept led to frustrations in 'getting something that will calculate'. Whilst paper prototyping was used to map things out, it was hard to demonstrate that the 'pieces of paper' would result in a working, calculating system. This was resolved through focus testing by an external useability organisation to develop an application that was appropriate for both business and website user. The useability expert was also able to resolve the issues in collecting time sheet data from users. This was a significant contribution to the ultimate success of the project.
Design issues were complicated by the need to ensure that Check Your Pay would be as accessible as possible and so the use of jazzy 'point and click' java tables with roll overs, etc. had to abandoned and replaced by simple HTML screens. This more useable solution was validated through focus testing.
Another major factor issue was that award wage rate data was stored in text format only, no numerical data is tagged. This meant that existing data could not be used for the project. A rates summary interface (RSI) was developed to enter numerical wage rate data which then fed into Check Your Pay. This had not been anticipated in the original funding bid and extra funds had to be found to develop it.
The development of Check Your Pay introduced many e-business challenges for OIR and it was a steep learning curve for the business units involved. However, the hard work has resulted in the first online wages calculator of its type to be developed around an Australian award-based industrial relations system.
Check Your Pay can be viewed on the OIR website at [HREF2].
For more information please contact OIR's eBusiness Manager, Lorna McKenzie, Lorna.McKenzie@oir.commerce.nsw.gov.au
Industrial relations, workers compensation and occupational health and safety: the information needs of small business final report. Sydney: AC Nielsen, 2003.
Usability evaluation online wages estimator: New South Wales Office of Industrial Relations. Sydney, Access Testing Centre, 2003.