Payroll & Benefit Services is a unit within Human Resource Services (HRS) under the Vice-President (Finance & Administration) portfolio. Payroll & Benefit Services specializes in the timely and accurate payment and reporting of salaries, wages, scholarships and other payments to employees, students, post-docs and colleagues as well as the administration and reporting of several benefit and pension plans.  

The university is a complex organization with numerous employee collective agreements. Units are responsible for various financial processes related to hiring and paying employees. To assist units in carrying out their responsibilities, Payroll & Benefit Services has developed comprehensive resources on hiring and paying employees, including user training courses which are provided through the PeopleSoft User Training Program.

The information presented in the Guide is designed to highlight some of the financial administration aspects of the payroll process.  Refer to the HRS site for detailed information with respect to employee collective agreements, pay and benefits.



Human Resource Services

PeopleSoft User Training Program (PSUTP) (CCID and password required)



Employment Relationship Policy (and related procedures)


Note: Information within this section will be updated to reflect process changes implemented by the PeopleSoft HCM 9.2 upgrade scheduled to go-live in May 2016.

Payroll Roles and Responsibilities

The Pay Administration section of the HRS site provides information to assist units in ensuring individuals are paid appropriately.

The responsibility for processing employee pay and benefits is shared between units and HRS. Units are responsible for the following key functions:

  1. Initiating employee pay and benefits Units initiate employee appointments (positions) and other pay-related actions in the payroll system through various forms, which are a combination of manually-completed (paper) forms and online “Smart Forms” that streamline the processing of employee information and approvals for certain staff hires, job changes and employment status changes. HRS’s site provides tools to assist units in appointing employees and selecting the appropriate forms to initiate pay-related actions.
  2. Ensuring employees are paid in a timely manner The university is subject to compliance with federal legislation requiring that employees be paid within established pay periods. Units must adhere to the payroll deadlines set by Payroll & Benefit Services (Pay Period Schedules). 
  3. Where applicable, identifying a worker’s status as an employee or independent contractor (Contract for Service or Employee). Identification of a worker’s status determines how the payment will be processed (i.e. through the payroll system or through accounts payable).


The primary functions of Payroll & Benefit Services are to:

  • process monthly and semi-monthly payroll and monitor all steps in the production of on-cycle and off-cycle direct deposit and paycheques
  • ensure compliance with all statutory and regulatory reporting of taxes, pensions, and record of employment
  • educate the university community on payroll and benefit related issues and provide expertise on payroll, pension, benefit and tax related issues
  • manage the pension plans and all related pension enrollment, deduction and reporting requirements
  • administer illness, vacation and other leave plans and process all time within PeopleSoft Time and Labour
  • manage automated benefit enrollment/termination/ change processes and process life events
  • manage reconciliation of payroll, benefit, pension and suspense accounts

Payroll System

The university uses the PeopleSoft Human Capital Management (HCM) payroll system for administering pay, deductions and benefits. All employee payments and honoraria (to non-employees such as visiting speakers) are paid through HCM.

HCM is separate from the PeopleSoft Financials database; therefore, there is no drilldown capability from the PeopleSoft Financials General Ledger to the PeopleSoft payroll modules.  Payroll data is interfaced into PeopleSoft Financials General Ledger at an aggregate level, as a general ledger journal (journal IDs starting with "PY"). Refer to Payroll Reporting (below) for further information regarding access to payroll data.

Other Payroll Financial Information

This section provides general financial information related to payroll to supplement the information provided on the HRS site.

In this section:

Approval of Pay Transactions
Payroll Processing Timelines
Payroll Suspense Account
Payroll Reporting
Review and Verification of Payroll Transactions
Payroll Overpayments
Changes to Coding of Payroll and Benefit Transactions
Split Appointments and Benefits
Guidelines for Payments to Individuals
Employee Tuition Remission
Retention and Filing of Payroll Source Documents

Approval of Pay Transactions

All pay transactions must have the appropriate approval(s). Pay actions initiated through Smart Forms are routed for electronic approval as determined on a unit-by-unit basis at the time of setup. Pay actions initiated through manual (paper) forms are approved by the positions indicated on the form.

Units are responsible for maintaining an adequate segregation of duties for initiating and approving transactions and reviewing payroll reports.

Payroll Processing Timelines

Depending on the employee type and the applicable collective agreement, payroll is processed semi-monthly or monthly.

Processing is completed within the timelines indicated on the month-end and year-end schedules (refer to Guide Chapter 6: Financial Schedules).  As the majority payroll is processed in the same month in which the work is performed, the university does not record a liability for payroll at the fiscal year-end, and units are not required to submit accruals for payroll.

Payroll Suspense Account

Payroll expenses that cannot be charged to the specified chartfield string (speedcode), because the speedcode or any of the chartfields are inactive or invalid, will be charged to a payroll suspense account.  Units will receive e-mail notification from Payroll & Benefit Services to follow up on these amounts.  Units are then required to provide a valid speedcode/chartfield string to which the payroll charges will be applied.

Note: If the speedcode was inactive and the unit requires that it be reactivated (and it is appropriate to do so), it is the unit’s responsibility to work with the appropriate central services unit in reactivating the speedcode.  If a unit does not provide Payroll & Benefit Services with correct information within a reasonable period of time, Payroll & Benefit Services will charge the salary and benefit expense to the affected unit's operating budget.

Only Payroll & Benefit Services can make corrections to transactions which have been placed into suspense.

Payroll Reporting

The payroll journals are posted to the GL at a summary level by account code, determined by the employee’s employee type, earnings, benefits or other deductions.  Detailed payroll information resides in HCM. Payroll interface journals start with "PY" and include the following:

  • PYA - daily payroll adjustments
  • PYS - semi-monthly payroll transactions
  • PYJ – ad hoc payroll journals
  • PYM - monthly payroll transactions
  • PYT - monthly Trustholders Extraordinary Expense Fund (TEEF) transactions (a benefits "insurance" plan funded by restricted accounts).  For more information see the TEEF website.

As information is posted at a summary level in the GL, no detail is available for payroll transactions (i.e. there is no drilldown from nVision). Various HR operational reports are available for detailed salary and benefits reporting. Refer to Guide Chapter 5: Reporting for further information.

Review and Verification of Payroll Transactions

Units are responsible for reviewing financial transactions in a timely manner. Payroll reports should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the following:

  • all staff names are recognizable
  • only staff who were employed were paid during the period
  • the amounts of salaries and wages paid to non-continuing staff align with expectations (Note: It is not necessary to verify the salary and benefit amounts for continuing staff.)
  • that salaries and benefits were charged to the right COA as expected
  • that benefit and tax chartfield (speedcode) overrides are correct
  • sufficient budget is retained to meet salary and benefit commitments

Refer to Guide Chapter 6: Transaction/Report Review and Verification for further details.

Payroll Overpayments

When an overpayment is discovered, both the employing unit and the affected employee are notified.  If the overpayment is due to a unit error, the unit retains the expense until Payroll & Benefit Services is able to recover the overpayment amount.  If the error was due to Payroll & Benefit Services processing, Payroll & Benefit Services will immediately reverse the charge to the unit, and will hold the overpayment centrally until it is recovered. Departments and Faculties have a responsibility to ensure that Human Resource Services is informed of all transactions affecting an employee or student’s pay by the Payroll deadlines posted to prevent the overpayment of salary.

Changes to Coding of Payroll and Benefit Transactions

All changes (including transfers, allocations or corrections) to coding of payroll and benefits must be made within the payroll system.

If the change is to be made on an ongoing basis, the appropriate pay action form must be used. Units may also minimize changes after-the-fact by allocating pay and benefits at the outset to numerous chartfield strings (speedcodes). Refer to Split Appointments and Benefits below for further information.

The GL Distribution function allows units to make ad hoc (i.e. one time) changes to coding of historical salary and benefit expenditures. Journals processed via GL Distribution will have a "PYA" journal mask. All changes are posted to the current month in the GL, with the accounting date being the day on which the unit enters the transaction. The unit is responsible for ensuring the GL distribution was successfully posted to the GL.  Training resources for GL distribution are available through the PeopleSoft User Training Program (PSUTP). 

Split Appointments and Benefits

Salary and benefits expenses can be distributed (at the outset) between chartfield strings (speedcodes). Units also have the option of charging WCB, CPP, and EI to a different chartfield string (speedcode) than that used for the other salary or benefit charges.  Available options can be selected in the compensation screens within Smart Forms. Utilizing these options at the outset of the appointment process may eliminate the need for regular transfer or allocation entries (i.e. GL Distribution).

Guidelines for Payments to or on Behalf of Individuals

Guidelines to assist units in determining the appropriate process, form and account number to use when making various types of payments to or on behalf of individuals (including employees and non-employees) are available on the Supply Management Services and Human Resource Services websites.


Payment Services (refer to Guidelines for Payments)

Employee Tuition Remission

Under various collective agreements, academic and support staff may be eligible for remission of tuition costs for credit courses taken at the University of Alberta. As the university, not the employee, is considered to benefit from tuition remission, this is processed in Campus Solutions and not as a payroll-related transaction.

Refer to Tuition Remission for further information.

Retention and Filing of Payroll Source Documents

This section applies to units who process GL Distributions and/or use Distributed Timesheet Entry. 

The source documents for these transactions include the form (with original approval signatures) used to enter the transaction into the system and any other documentation supporting the transaction.

These documents must be retained and filed according to the university’s procedures. For further information, refer to Guide Chapter 6: Retention and Filing of Source Documents.

Source documents for other payroll transactions are retained centrally within HRS. 

Last Updated: March 2016