Mary Harrison, staff writer
The LifeWorks Office is receiving more student complaints regarding paychecks than usual this semester. Mike Burnes, director of the LifeWorks program, believes that the increase in complaints is caused by deductions for COVID-19 testing. In addition to fees charged on a student’s account, missed deadlines by employees and work supervisors can cause partial or delayed paychecks.
Payroll is processed every two weeks, according to Kelly Hindman, manager of payroll services. Delayed paychecks and paychecks reflecting only one of multiple jobs can be caused by students or supervisors not meeting biweekly deadlines.
The college is not responsible for payment issues due to data entry, Hindman explained. In the three-step payroll process, students submit timesheets that are then approved by their supervisors, LifeWorks finalizes the payroll and sends it to the payroll office. The payroll office double checks data and deducts fees from student accounts before processing the payroll.
“[The problem] would be back on the supervisor or student level, because we have processed the payroll,” Hindman said. “The majority of what we see is where, sometimes the second submit [button] for new students is missed, or the supervisor doesn’t get it approved.”
The only issue potentially caused by LifeWorks would be that they were late approving a position, Hindman said, which would not be the case if a student was able to log hours on a timesheet.
According to Hindman, the payroll office is not receiving more questions than normal about student pay. The office is processing 230 more student payments, including 70 more checks, in the 2021-2022 school year than last year due to the record-setting size of the freshman class. Most students opt to receive their earnings by check instead of direct deposit.
According to Tammi Freeman, mail services manager, post office employees process physical checks immediately after they are received from the Payroll Office. Emails are sent out alerting recipients first thing Friday morning. In Freeman’s 30-year career as mail services manager, including this year, paychecks have been delivered no later than Friday morning.
Mail mix-ups such as incorrectly transposing a box number do occur because of human error, Freeman said, but usually these issues can be resolved within 15 minutes.
“We are extremely careful with paychecks,” Freeman said.
Direct deposit errors can occur when a student mistypes their bank routing number, Hindman said, but payroll personnel contact place a hold on the account and contact the affected student if that is the case.
The college actively encourages students to sign up for direct deposit payments for the ease of both students and personnel.
“I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to do direct deposit; [the payment] is there with no delay,” Freeman said.
While delayed payments are typically caused by an employee or supervisor error, Hindman said student account fees are the cause of partial payments. A student can sometimes accumulate enough fees that they do not receive a paycheck.
“If they have a stub, in the mail and no actual check, that’s because their check was zero, because everything that was deducted was the same as or more than what they earned [for that pay period],” Hindman said.
Students who receive payments via direct deposit would simply not receive a deposit for that pay period.
These deductions, particularly for required COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated members of the Berry community, have increased the number of students reporting smaller paychecks this year, according to Burnes.
Tests are $6 and students are required to test twice a week, putting the total cost deducted for COVID-19 tests at $48 a month.
According to the President’s weekly email, at time of publication, Berry is looking at potentially covering the price of COVID tests.
Sophomore Caleb Land is one of the students who has had charges for COVID-19 testing deducted from his paycheck. However, Land has not had an entire paycheck docked by the fees.
“Fortunately, I work enough hours to, actually profit still [from my LifeWorks job],” Land explained.
Land had to view his monthly bank statement on VikingWeb to account for the smaller paycheck and believes that the college should be more upfront and flexible with how they deduct the testing charges.
“I knew that Berry’s policy is that they are going to charge us for a COVID test, but I don’t remember signing anything saying that I agreed to that,” Land said. “I was expecting the COVID testing charges to be, included in the tuition fee, unless I indicated, that I wanted it deducted from my paycheck, just like I could ask or fill out a request form to deduct my paycheck for tuition.”
Other fees deducted from a student’s paycheck include parking tickets and library fines, according to Hindman. Any Residence Life fees for room damage will also be charged to a student’s account and deducted from the first paycheck of the year for returning students.
The payroll office does offer cash advances to employees whose supervisors do not approve their time sheet by the deadline. Students with questions about their LifeWorks earnings or extenuating circumstances are encouraged to contact the payroll office via email or phone.