British Armed forces face pay crisis

British Armed forces face pay crisis

Deluge of protests from personnel wrongly paid by unified HR system

Problems with the armed forces’ £100m human resources system are being blamed for plummeting morale.

The Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system has already saved the military £100m and enabled HR staff numbers to be cut by 1,400, or about 20 per cent.

But in the past month alone Computing has received more than 150 separate complaints from service personnel, including those seeing action in Iraq and Afghanistan, facing continuing financial issues because of JPA.

“It is the most-quoted reason for malcontent in the armed forces,” one RAF senior officer told Computing.

“It beggars belief to create such financial chaos for those putting their lives on the line for their country.”

Military personnel affected cite issues including: inaccurate basic pay; miscalculated living allowances; expense claims and retirement grants; and confusion associated with changes of unit, rank or location.

The complaints point to a chronic lack of training for HR staff, too few JPA terminals for soldiers to access the system, and inadequate support from the centralised JPAC help centre.

One officer’s experience is typical. “The failing of JPA to support me while serving in Baghdad caused my family financial embarrassment,” he said.

“I had no access to a remote terminal for four months, my pay was inaccurate and I was forced to use my own meagre phone allowance to contact the JPAC help centre ­ who did nothing but refer me to my unit HR in the UK, who were in turn prevented from making changes by JPAC.

“My wife had to resort to borrowing money from parents until my return, and since repatriation it has taken more than seven months to resolve,” he said.

The story is not an isolated case. The protests come from Army, Navy and Air Force personnel, as well as Territorials, HR administrators and careers officers.

One pay clerk told Computing: “Probably thousands of personnel are not being paid correctly or even at all.”

Military management acknowledged that there have been teething problems. But JPA is no disaster, according to vice-admiral Wilkinson, deputy chief of the defence staff (personnel).

“JPA continues to perform well, with pay accuracy comparable with the previous systems,” he said. “Where there have been problems, they have usually been down to incorrect input ­ a consequence of unfamiliarity with the system.

“I do recognise that we are asking service personnel to learn to work in a radically different way at a very busy time, and work is under way to improve the user experience,” he said.

Plans include improved training for HR professionals, refinement of business processes, and remodelling of JPAC.

Conservative defence spokesman Andrew Murrison said: “Pay systems that are struggling to deliver add to people’s anxieties at a time which is already very stressful.”