At Dataplan Education, we are proud to be at the forefront of the payroll and pensions industry. Our expert people, combined with our innovative solutions, allow us to flex to meet the challenges of school payroll and pensions.
Our Innovation Team is challenged with leading the drive for this, and they are constantly looking for ways to improve processes, iron out issues and increase efficiency. One example of how we do this is through automation.
Our automated generator tool
For Teachers’ Pensions MDC (Monthly Data Collection), which will map over to the MCR (Monthly Contribution Reconciliation) process, we have an automated tool that generates the data in the correct format for MDC. In addition, we have a macro that does a quick validation check to ensure all the data is in the right place and there are no significant anomalies we need to report, such as very high or very low full-time equivalent salaries. Once this validation automation has run and we have made any changes to the return, they are saved in a secure area for upload to Teachers’ Pensions.
Automatic overnight uploads
Previously somebody had to sit down and manually upload each return one at a time by logging in to the pension scheme portal. There was only one login account, which caused problems as everybody wanted to use it simultaneously; when a second person tried to log in, it would log the first person out mid-process, so it was full of problems.
We have solved this by creating a system whereby all of the returns go into a secure holding area, we then developed an automated process that uploads the data at regular intervals during the day. This automation bot mimics a user logging in, uploading the data to Teachers’ Pensions without manual intervention. Not only is this far more efficient, it also reduces error due to human inputs.
What is the difference between MDC and MCR?
Under MDC, the data is the individual Teacher information line by line and job by job each pay period, and that goes onto the Teachers’ pension account, so they can access and view that via the pension online tool and see their pension building up on a month by month basis.
Under MDC, there are two additional processes. First, there is an enrolment report, so if you’ve got any new Teachers, you have to send them a separate enrolment report to get them enrolled. Secondly, you have to send them a contribution breakdown each month. This has to be broken down between your pensionable pay, the different contribution tiers, and the additional pension contribution types that individual Teachers pay; then, it goes into a reconciliation, which is then uploaded to Teachers’ Pensions.
Under MDC, that contribution breakdown is also automated; they go into the same holding area and overnight, along with the MDC returns and contributions, are automatically uploaded.
MCR replaces all of those three processes and rolls them into one process. The MCR gives greater control over the receipt and reconciliation of pension contributions.
Ultimately, it is very prescriptive. It improves the quality of data for teachers and the information going onto their pension accounts, but it also gives them the ability to have far better control over the contributions being paid.
Using automation to create efficiencies within the MCR process
The automation bot mimics a user logging in, downloading all available file types from Teachers’ Pensions, again without any manual intervention. The MCR routine that we’ve created extracts all the data in the correct format that we need, but there are two key MCR related files that we get back from Teachers’ Pensions. One is an errors file, so if the processor has used the wrong contribution tier, for example, we can submit the data with that error, but it comes back to us with details of the error so we have the ability to rectify it. Our process informs the payroll processor to correct the error it in the following pay period. It will automatically get corrected and pulled into the following report we generate.
Another important report we generate is the missing members report. If somebody has left the school or they’ve dropped a teaching job, and we don’t get notification from the school straight away, we tend to find out through the missing members report. Again the missing members pull through into that following MCR report run so acts as a failsafe to ensure accuracy which is all driven by our automation processes.