Impact of FLSA Changes on NIH Funded Post Docs

NIH has issued guidance on projected FY2017 stipend levels for Postdoctoral Trainees and Fellows on Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA).  NIH’s plan is to raise the minimum NRSA compensation level to above the new Department of Labor (DOL) threshold of $47,476 which becomes effective December 1, 2016 (for exemption from overtime rules).

Post Docs Supported on NRSAs
NIH has provided a Guidance document which details the mechanics of a projected NRSA stipend increase. NIH has stated that they are strongly committed to the NRSA program and believes they can raise the minimum stipend without negatively impacting (reducing) the number of NRSA participants. The Guidance document provides the projected stipend levels for postdoctoral trainees and fellows supported by Kirschstein-NRSA awards for federal FY2017.  Please note that the exact stipend levels and the actual date of implementation are subject to the availability of FY2017 appropriations and implementation of the new FLSA threshold for professional workers to be eligible for paid overtime.  NRSA stipends are projected to have a step-wide increase (meaning that the more experienced post docs [PGY levels] would see a rise in their salary). NIH is awaiting further indication from Congress regarding likely FY17 appropriations to make the final determination.  However, the guide has been provided to assist the extramural community in their planning.  This guide can be accessed at  NIH had also noted that they expect to provide additional funding for post docs on currently active (and future) NRSA awards (but confirmation of this is also still pending).

Post Docs Supported on RPGs
At this time, NIH does not have plans to provide additional funds for post docs on research grants whose salaries fall below the new threshold and it is expected that PIs and Departments may need to repurpose existing grant funds to increase post doc support. NIH is in the process of determining, given that the amount of repurposed funds would be a relatively small percent of an average RPG, if the repurposing would need permission from the NIH Program Officer. Currently, NIH is leaning towards allowing PIs to contact their own Institutional Grant Management staff (Emory RAS) to notify of repurposing, rather than a formal-NIH approval process which would further burden the PIs and NIH staff.

Additional items

  • NIH’s priorities are to support the NRSA program as best it can and to ensure that post docs are paid commensurate with their training.
  • Post Docs must be treated consistently (whether grant funded or otherwise).
  • International post docs are subject to the DOL rule. For international post docs who might have overseas training funding which is supplemented by an RPG or university funds, NIH suggests that appointment letters clearly state that their salaries are determined by the combined sources of funding and that international post doc will be in compliance with the new rules on December 1, 2016.
  • Many post docs are appointed on July 1. Whether supported by RPGs or NRSA, offer letters should reflect that salaries will meet the threshold on Dec 1, 2016.

Proposal Budgeting
When preparing budgets for NIH grant proposals which include post docs with any proposed activity occurring 12/1/16 or later, the salary or stipend levels should be budgeted at the NIH projected rate allowing for anticipated increases in stipends.  NIH has provided guidance that this budgeting practice is now appropriate. Please note that, as with all budgeted expenses, the levels at which we will be able to spend is dependent upon sponsor approval and any future guidelines that are yet to be issued by NIH.

Post doc Years of Experience Estimated Stipend (Annual) Estimated Stipend (Monthly)
0 $47,484 $3,957
1 $47,844 $3,987
2 $48,216 $4,018
3 $50,316 $4,193
4 $52,140 $4,345
5 $54,228 $4,519
6 $56,400 $4,700
7 $58,650 $4,880

Next Steps
As information is provided, additional guidance will be shared with the Emory Research Community.  In the interim, if you do have questions, please contact your assigned RAS Representative for further guidance.

Kerry Peluso
Associate Vice President for Research Administration

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