Duke University Postdoctoral Policy FAQ

Return to Postdoc Services policies and forms


TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
Section 1: Questions Related to Appointment as Postdoctoral Associate, Postdoctoral Scholar, or Postdoctoral Scholar-Paid Direct; and Appointing Recent Duke PhD Graduates
Section 2: Questions Related to Initial Term of Appointment, Term Limits, and ‘Employee First’ Policy
Section 3: Moving from Postdoctoral Associate to Postdoctoral Scholar
Section 4: Appointment as Postdoctoral Scholar – Paid Direct
Section 5: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Salary
Section 6: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Benefits
Section 7: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Retirement
Section 8: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Leave and Hours Worked
Section 9: Questions Related to Reappointment Letters, and Evaluations/Individual Development Plans (IDPs)
Section 10: Questions Related to Grievances, Ombuds, Discrimination and Harassment, Research Misconduct, and NIH Guidelines on the Appropriate Treatment of Research Trainees
Section 11: Questions Related to Termination

Section 1: Questions Related to Appointment as Postdoctoral Associate, Postdoctoral Scholar, or Postdoctoral Scholar-Paid Direct; and Appointing Recent Duke PhD Graduates

1. What are Duke postdoctoral appointments? Are they faculty or staff employees?

  • There are three types of Duke postdoctoral appointments:
  1. Postdoctoral Associates are Duke University staff employees receiving a salary through the compensatory payroll, typically from the faculty mentor’s research grant (eg, NIH R01). Postdoctoral Associates are Duke University employees. 90% of Duke postdoctoral appointees are Postdoctoral Associates.
  2. Postdoctoral Scholars receive a stipend through the noncompensatory payment system. At Duke, only recipients of NIH NRSA F32/T32 training grants may be appointed as Postdoctoral Scholars. Postdoctoral Scholars are not Duke University employees. Approximately 10% of postdoctoral appointees are Postdoctoral Scholars. For more information, see FAQ Section 3: Moving from Postdoctoral Associate to Postdoctoral Scholar.
  3. Postdoctoral Scholar-Paid Directs are paid directly from an external agency (eg, NSF) or foreign government (eg, Canadian NSERC) and do not receive salary or stipend through the Duke University Compensatory Payroll or the Duke University Non-Compensatory Payment System. Individuals with a Postdoctoral Scholar-Paid Direct designation are not Duke University employees. Approximately 2% of postdoctoral appointees are Postdoctoral Scholar-Paid Directs. For more information, see FAQ Section 4: Appointment as Postdoctoral Scholar-Paid Direct.
  • The Duke Postdoctoral Policy outlines differences between postdoctoral appointees and other employees, but in the absence of a stated difference, regular staff policies and procedures apply.
  • The Duke Postdoctoral Policy does not apply to other positions in Job Family 27 (eg, Research Associate Senior, Research Scientist, Associate in Research, Research Scholar). These positions are not Duke postdoctoral appointments. Duke postdoctoral appointments are made only in the categories of Postdoctoral Associate, Postdoctoral Scholar, and Postdoctoral Scholar-Paid Direct.

2.     What is the protocol for hiring a postdoc?

  • As of 2018, Duke faculty and administrative staff are required to use Duke Success Factors and/or Academic Jobs Online to advertise postdoctoral positions. Please contact the departmental hiring manager and/or HR Management Center for guidelines.
  • The HR description for Postdoctoral Associate is Job Code 3820.
  • The SoM and Campus Postdoctoral Associate Offer Letter Template on the Office of Postdoctoral Services website may be customized by the faculty mentor/department.

3.     When do I use the postdoc personnel subarea (PSA 0028)?

  • The postdoc personnel subarea (PSA 0028) should always be used for appointments as Postdoctoral Associate (job code 3820) and Postdoctoral Scholar (job code 2898). PSA 0028 determines the fringe benefit rate and is also used to determine the number of Duke postdoctoral appointees for reporting to Duke, NIH, NSF, and other agencies.
  • The postdoc PSA should not be used for any other job category (eg, Clinical Associate, Research Associate Senior, Research Scientist, Research Scholar). These positions are not postdoctoral appointments.

4.     Does the 90-day orientation and evaluation period apply to newly hired postdocs?

5.     Do postdoctoral appointees have a separate orientation, or do they go to Duke New Employee Orientation?

6.     A grad student in our department just received his PhD. The PI would like to keep him on as a postdoc for a few months before he moves to his first ‘real’ postdoc position. May we appoint the student as a Postdoctoral Associate?

  • Postdoctoral Associate is a full-time, exempt appointment for a period of 9 months or greater, and is subject to the postdoctoral salary minimum and other stipulations of the postdoctoral policy. Postdoctoral Associate is not an appropriate category for recent graduates who are continuing their work in the department for ‘just a few months’ until they begin a postdoctoral appointment at another university, or find other employment. A recent graduate who is staying on in the department for a short period may be appointed as an Research Scholar or similar (departments should discuss the appropriate title with the SOM or Campus HR Center). However, in order to be fully benefits-eligible, s/he must work at least 30 hours a week for at least 9 months.
  • Note that The Duke Student Medical Insurance Plan normally runs from August 1 through July 31 of the following year, giving recent graduates coverage for 2 months after May graduation.

7.     I want to move a recently graduated Duke PhD student to a NIH NRSA postdoctoral training grant (eg, Postdoctoral Scholar on the non-compensatory payment system). Does their time on the comp payroll as a grad student count as Duke employee time?

  • No. The Graduate Student PSA 0006 is not a benefits-eligible personnel subarea; therefore time spent as a graduate student does not count towards Duke employee time.

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Section 2: Questions Related to Initial Term of Appointment, Term Limits, and Employee First Policy

8.     What is the initial term of appointment and term limit for postdoctoral positions?

  •  It is recommended that the initial postdoctoral appointment be for 1 year. In general, appointment renewals will be for 1 year, with the maximum total term of appointments for a Postdoctoral Appointee being 5 years.
  • This maximum term includes cumulative postdoctoral research experience. Extensions may be granted in extraordinary circumstances (eg, family leave, illness) by the appropriate Dean in the case of professional schools and/or the Vice President for Research & Innovation. If a Postdoctoral Appointee has spent part of the training period at another institution or in another field, then the total time of training should not exceed 6 years, except in extraordinary circumstances.
  • After the 5 year training period, the postdoctoral appointee must either be moved into a non-training, staff position (eg, Research Associate Senior, Research Scientist) or terminated. In the case of termination, at least 90 days written notice must be given to the postdoctoral appointee.

9.     Can a postdoctoral appointment be for less than one year?

  • The initial appointment for a postdoctoral appointee must be at least 9 months (one academic year). This allows benefits eligibility.

10.  Is the ‘Employee First’ policy (all postdocs spending their initial 30 days of employment on the compensatory payroll) a requirement for departments?

  • Yes, the ‘Employee First’ policy is a requirement. The ‘Employee First’ policy was implemented so that Postdoctoral Scholars may have legal access to Duke health insurance. The ‘Employee First’ policy was vetted by the Deans and Chairs of the Campus and School of Medicine, and approved by the Academic Council.
  • Within the School of Medicine, if neither the PI, the department/responsible unit, nor the Chair has funds to cover the costs of the Postdoctoral Scholar’s initial 30 days on comp payroll, the Dean of the School of Medicine has agreed to cover the cost. The SoM Office of Resource Planning will reimburse the department/responsible unit for those costs, per a request from the Business Manager. Insurance costs should be processed by the business office of the department/responsible unit and charged directly to an unrestricted departmental 4xx fund code that has been approved in advance by Payroll. Reimbursements should be requested on monthly and/or quarterly bases for any recurring charges. E-mail requests for reimbursement with brief explanation of charges to: Rossitsa Evans, Office of Resource Planning.
  • On the Campus side, salary for the mandatory 30-day employee period will come first from the Principal Investigator (or primary Mentor in the case of NIH NRSA Institutional Research T32 Training Grants), to be supplemented if necessary by funding from the department/responsible unit, or from the Dean/Director.

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Section 3: Moving from Postdoctoral Associate to Postdoctoral Scholar

11.  What do departments and postdocs need to know about moving from Postdoctoral Associate to Postdoctoral Scholar (ie, moving from the comp payroll to the non-comp payment system)?

Appointment as Postdoctoral Scholar:

  • Before moving a Postdoctoral Associate to a Postdoctoral Scholar position, the terms of the funding agency should be carefully reviewed to determine whether the postdoctoral appointee will receive a salary or stipend. Unless the funding terms specify that only a stipend will be provided for the postdoctoral appointee (as is specifically the case with NIH NRSA awards), the appointee should remain on the compensatory payroll.
  • Questions about the necessity of moving a Postdoctoral Associate to a Postdoctoral Scholar position should be directed to the HR Management Center, Corporate Payroll, or Molly Starback, Director of Duke Postdoctoral Services.
  • When moving a Postdoctoral Associate to a Postdoctoral Scholar position, change job code 3820 (Postdoctoral Associate) to job code 2898 (Postdoctoral Scholar), flag the postdoc personnel subarea (PSA 0028), and set the rate of pay to zero.
  • When moving a Postdoctoral Associate to a Postdoctoral Scholar position (or vice-versa), two iForms are needed:
    • First, process a position reclass to change the position’s title from job code 3820 (Postdoctoral Associate) to job code 2898 (Postdoctoral Scholar), and flag the postdoc personnel subarea (PSA 0028).
    • After the position reclass has processed, a Rate and Schedule reclass iForm is needed to change the person’s title and set the rate of pay to zero.
  • For instructions on non-compensatory payments, see Corporate Payroll Non-Compensatory Payments. Please note that before a fund code can be used in the Non-Compensatory Payment System, it must be approved in advance by Payroll.

Insurance for Postdoctoral Scholars:

  • Postdoctoral Scholars receiving a stipend through the noncompensatory payment system (ie, NIH NRSA F32/T32 recipients) are not Duke University employees.
  • As former University employees, Postdoctoral Scholars may remain enrolled in Duke health insurance, as well as the dental and vision plans provided by the University. However, Postdoctoral Scholars should note that they will be taxed on the entire cost of Duke health insurance (not just the ‘employee’ portion). Because Postdoctoral Scholars are non-employees receiving an employee benefit, the IRS requires that taxes be paid on that benefit (US Tax Code Title 26, Section 106, excludes employer-provided health care coverage from the gross income of an employee, but not from that of a non-employee).
  • If the Postdoctoral Scholar has an Institutional Allowance (IA), funding for the Postdoctoral Scholar’s individual coverage and for the Duke contribution to health insurance will be taken from the IA first and to the fullest extent possible. The Postdoctoral Scholar may also choose to pay his/her premium (the ‘employee’ or ‘payee’ portion) from the IA, although the Duke portion will be extracted first - in other words, if there is not enough in the IA to cover both the Duke portion and the premium, the postdoc must pay the premium out of pocket.
  • The Postdoctoral Scholar may always choose to use the IA for health insurance – other institutional costs, such as lab supplies, may not take precedence over insurance costs.
  • If the Postdoctoral Scholar does not have an Institutional Allowance (IA) to cover health insurance:
    • In Campus units, if the Postdoctoral Scholar does not have an IA or if supplementation is necessary, funding for the Postdoctoral Scholar’s individual coverage and for the Duke contribution to health insurance will come either from the Principal Investigator (PI), the department/responsible unit, or the Dean/Director. The decision of how to allot such funding will be at the discretion of each School/responsible unit.
    • In the School of Medicine, if neither the PI, the department/responsible unit, nor the Chair/Director has funds to cover the costs of the Postdoctoral Scholar’s individual coverage and the Duke contribution to health insurance, the Dean of the School of Medicine has agreed to cover the costs. The SoM Office of Resource Planning will reimburse the department/responsible unit, per a request from the business office. Insurance costs should be processed by the business office of the department/responsible unit and charged directly to an unrestricted departmental 4xx fund code that Payroll has pre-approved for use on the Non-Compensatory Payroll. Reimbursements should be requested on monthly and/or quarterly bases for any recurring charges. E-mail requests for reimbursement with brief explanation of charges to: Rossitsa Evans, Office of Resource Planning.
  • For instructions for processing benefits deductions for Postdoctoral Scholars, please see the Corporate Payroll Services Guidelines, which includes the Health Insurance Stipend Table: https://finance.duke.edu/news/2024-postdoc-scholar-health-insurance-stipend-guidelines
  • As of July 1, 2021, a stipend augmentation, or ‘top up’, will be provided to Postdoctoral Scholars' individual stipends to mitigate the tax impact of deductions made post-tax. The ‘top up’ must be added to the Postdoctoral Scholar's base stipend - it does not count towards the postdoctoral stipend minimum. The expectation is this stipend augmentation will be provided from the primary mentor's available funds; and if not available to the primary mentor, the department chair should determine the funding source.
  • The Postdoctoral Scholar's benefits selections are automatically transferred to the non-comp payroll. To ensure that benefits have transferred correctly, administrators and Postdoctoral Scholars may email Jennifer Frazier, HR Specialist, Duke Benefits.
  • As of December 2012, moving to the non-compensatory payment system is considered a qualifying life event, so the Postdoctoral Scholar may add or drop coverage or change health insurance plans.
  • Due to federal requirements regarding employment status, Postdoctoral Scholars may receive a COBRA notice from Duke Benefits, because they are transitioning from employee to non-employee status.
  • The Open Enrollment Period for Postdoctoral Scholars may not coincide with the Open Enrollment Period for regular staff. Postdoctoral Scholars receive a customized open enrollment packet that reflects the benefits available to them, non-comp premiums, and a paper enrollment form to make changes for the upcoming year.
  • Departmental staff and postdocs who have benefits-related questions may contact Jennifer Frazier, HR Specialist, Duke Benefits.

Retirement for Postdoctoral Scholars:

  • Because they are not Duke University employees, Postdoctoral Scholars are not eligible to participate in the Duke Faculty and Staff Retirement Plan.
  • However, effective January 1, 2024, Postdoctoral Scholars will receive an additional supplemental stipend intended to provide these scholars with additional financial support so that they can better secure their short and long term financial and savings needs. The contribution will begin for Postdoctoral Scholars effective January 1, 2024. There is no waiting period for the contribution.
  • This supplemental stipend of $2,900 per year will be paid monthly through the non-compensatory payment system, and is in addition to the stipend augmentation for medical insurance tax mitigation that became effective July 1, 2021. This supplement is specifically for those Postdoctoral Scholars who receive their stipend through Duke (ie, NIH NRSA T32 or F32 recipients). The expectation is this stipend augmentation will be provided from the primary mentor's available funds; and if not available to the primary mentor, the department chair should determine the funding source. Federal awards cannot be used as the source of the stipend supplement. Scholars that are paid directly from another entity (eg, their compensation does not route through Duke University) are not eligible for the supplemental stipend at this time.
  • This supplemental stipend may be processed using the Stipend Augmentation Form found at the Office of Postdoctoral Services website. A copy of the stipend augmentation form should be submitted to Corporate Payroll along with the Non-Compensatory Payment Form. As a general rule, the stipend augmentation should run concurrently with the dates of the fellowship. If you have questions about processing the stipend augmentation form, please email Sarah G Lee in Corporate Payroll at sarah.g.lee@duke.edu
  • The stipend augmentation for medical insurance tax mitigation and the additional supplemental stipend should be processed as two separate lines on the iForm.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars who are eligible for this supplemental stipend may wish to consult their financial institution or a financial planner for advice on their personal financial situation and potential avenues for savings.  
  • Departmental staff and Postdoctoral Scholars who have questions related to the supplemental stipend may email Molly Starback, Director of Duke Postdoctoral Services, at molly.starback@duke.edu.

Other Benefits for Postdoctoral Scholars:

Stipend and Taxes for Postdoctoral Scholars:

  • Click here for an example of a Postdoctoral Scholar's stipend statement.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars’ pay date will change from the 25th of the month to the last business day of month. The Non-Compensatory Payment Schedule is located at https://finance.duke.edu/payroll/schedules/noncomp
  • Postdoctoral Scholars will probably have to update their direct deposit information to reflect the change from the compensatory to non-compensatory payment system. The Direct Deposit Authorization Agreement must be used for Postdoctoral Scholars to establish direct deposit. This form can be uploaded to Payroll directly via https://strongbox.oit.duke.edu/strongbox/uploader/DUKE%20SSN%20COMPLIANCE/134611658066
  • It is strongly recommended that Postdoctoral Scholars consult the IRS and/or a tax professional to understand the tax implications (income and FICA) of their fellowship stipend. Because interpretation of tax laws is the domain of the IRS, Duke cannot determine what an individual’s tax status may be, and Duke cannot dispense tax advice. However, Duke F32/T32 recipients may wish to ask advice from their fellow NIH NRSA recipients. Use NIH RePORTER to find current and former Duke NSRA F32 recipients.
  • Reporting & Withholding Requirements: Postdoctoral payments (wage types 4002, 4012) must be reported by Duke University. The recipient will receive IRS Form 1099 for these payments. The recipients may elect to have tax withholdings by completing IRS Forms W-4 and NC-4. Postdoctoral Scholars on the non-comp payroll must fill out paper tax forms, and submit to the departmental HR or Business Manager to be forwarded to Corporate Payroll. For more information: https://finance.duke.edu/payroll/noncomp/withholding
  • Distribution of Tax Documents: IRS Form 1099 and courtesy letters are distributed in conjunction with the January payments of each calendar year. For more information, see https://finance.duke.edu/payroll/noncomp/withholding
  • Postdoctoral Scholars funded by NIH NRSA awards may email Molly Starback for a suggested letter template regarding IRS self-employment tax (please note that you will probably only need the template if you receive a letter from the IRS asking you to explain why you are not liable for self-employment tax for the income you made from the F32 that was reported on the 1099-MISC; the IRS does not always send this letter).
  • The National Postdoctoral Association provides useful tax information for non-employee postdocs. Duke Postdoctoral Services is an institutional member of the National Postdoctoral Association. Register for your free Duke affiliate membership using your Duke email address.
  • Depending on the time of the switch to non-compensatory status, Postdoctoral Scholars may have 2 payroll records – compensatory and non-compensatory. Therefore, Postdoctoral Scholars may have to submit duplicate NC4 and W4 tax documents in conjunction with their compensatory and non-compensatory payments.
  • New Postdoctoral Scholars may receive both a W-2 tax form for compensatory work performed as a Postdoctoral Associate, and a 1099-MISC Form reporting fellowship stipend.
  • Because they are trainees, not employees, the IRS may not view Postdoctoral Scholars as receiving ‘earned income’. This may have an implication for child/dependent care tax deductions. It is strongly recommended that Postdoctoral Scholars consult a tax professional to understand the potential tax implications of their individual situation.
  • Some financial institutions may exclude 1099 forms when considering mortgage applications. The Duke Credit Union has agreed to support mortgages using 1099 data, contingent upon all other loan requirements (eg, credit reports, debt-to-income ratio).
  • Postdoctoral Scholars who would like a hard copy of their stipend statements (eg, for a mortgage application) should email payroll@duke.edu. Please state that you are a Postdoctoral Scholar on the noncomp payroll, include your DUID, and specify the months requested for the pay statements.
  • Departmental staff and postdocs who have payroll-related questions may email Sara Lee in Corporate Payroll.

Leave for Postdoctoral Scholars:

  • Postdoctoral Scholars are not Duke employees, and therefore do not accrue leave from Duke. However, subject to the terms of the funding agency, Postdoctoral Scholars may typically take up to 41 personal days of absence (this number of days corresponds to the temporal distribution of leave for Postdoctoral Associates: typically 15 vacation days, 12 sick days, and 14 holidays and discretionary days as observed by the relevant school of the University). Upon termination or transfer to a Postdoctoral Associate position, a Postdoctoral Scholar will not be paid out for unused days of absence.
  • Subject to the terms of the funding agency, Postdoctoral Scholars must use their leave in the year earned or lose it. Unutilized days of absence do not accrue from year to year, and will not be carried over if the Postdoctoral Scholar changes labs or departments/responsible units.
  • As of July 1 2019, when Postdoctoral Associates (employee) transfer to Postdoctoral Scholar (non-employee), they will ‘bank’ their unused vacation. Accrued vacation and sick leave balances will remain in the system in the event the Postdoctoral Scholar returns to the Postdoctoral Associate position on the compensatory payroll. No additional time off accruals will be applied to these balances during the transition to Noncomp
  • Effective March 2018, NIH posted a Summary of Leave, Part-Time, and Extension Policies available to Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) Trainees and Fellows. The notice includes details on part-time training, vacations and holidays, sick leave, parental leave, unpaid leave of absence, and extension of an award or appointment for interruptions in training. The details of NRSA policies can be found in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
  • Parental Leave for Postdoctoral Scholars: NIH NRSA F32 and T32 trainees may continue to receive stipends for up to 60 calendar days (8 work weeks) of parental leave per year for the adoption or birth of a child. Either or both parents are eligible for such leave, but the institution and/or the supervisor must be notified in advance according to organizational policies. The use of parental leave requires approval by the fellowship sponsor or the PD/PI of the training grant. For more information on NIH Family-Friendly Initiatives for NIH NRSA F32/T32 recipients, see https://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/nih-family-friendly-initiative.htm
  • Because they are not Duke University employees, Postdoctoral Scholars are not eligible for FMLA leave through Duke University. However, Postdoctoral Scholars should check the terms of their funding agency to determine if they are eligible for leave through the agency.

Childcare for Postdoctoral Scholars:

Parking for Postdoctoral Scholars:

  • Parking deductions will automatically transition to non-comp when postdocs transition to Postdoctoral Scholar status. Departmental staff and postdocs who have parking-related questions or wish to check that parking deductions have transitioned may email Jurgen Wanke, Financial Operations Lead for Parking & Transportation.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars are eligible for the Subsidized Parking Program for Employees if they meet the criteria.

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Section 4: Appointment as Postdoctoral Scholar – Paid Direct

12.  Are candidates who are paid directly, either by their home country or by another institution, eligible for postdoctoral appointment?

13.  A candidate has contacted a faculty member in our department. The candidate has home country/fellowship funding that will be paid directly to them and has offered to join the faculty member's research group. This means the faculty member gets a ‘free postdoc’, right?

  • If the candidate is paid directly, the answer is probably no. If the candidate is paid directly, money for stipend and employee benefits (ie, medical insurance) cannot be routed through the Duke University Compensatory Payroll or the Duke University Non-Compensatory Payment System. Therefore, if postdoctoral appointment and/or Duke medical insurance is desired, the candidate will almost certainly not be ‘all expenses paid’ for the following reasons:
    • If postdoctoral appointment is desired and the paid-direct funding is below the Duke postdoctoral salary minimum, the Faculty Mentor must supplement up to the minimum. If the candidate’s paid-direct funding does not meet the postdoctoral stipend minimum and the Faculty Mentor declines to provide stipend augmentation, the candidate is not eligible for postdoctoral appointment and must default to Visiting Scholar or similar status.
    • If Duke medical insurance is desired, the Faculty Mentor must pay the entire cost of the insurance (both the individual and the institutional portion, not just the ‘Duke portion’). The cost of insurance must be grossed up to provide the candidate the full insurance benefit and to offset tax withholding requirements, unless the candidate is eligible for tax treaty benefits. The candidate may not pay for Duke medical insurance from their paid-direct funding - in other words, there is no way for the candidate to ‘write a check’ for Duke insurance. For cost of medical insurance, see https://hr.duke.edu/benefits/medical/medical-insurance/premiums/
    • If the candidate has not previously been employed by Duke, the Faculty Mentor must be willing to provide salary for the candidate to spend a minimum of 30 days on the Duke University Compensatory Payroll to establish Duke employee status. If the Faculty Mentor declines to provide salary for a minimum of 30 days, the candidate is not eligible for postdoctoral appointment and must default to Visiting Scholar or similar status.
    • Immigration status and eligibility for work authorization for this minimum 30-day period must be confirmed with Duke Visa Services. If the candidate is not eligible for work authorization, the candidate is not eligible for postdoctoral appointment and must default to Visiting Scholar or similar status.
  • Please see the final section of the postdoctoral policy, Policies Specific to Paid-Direct Candidates for Postdoctoral Appointment, for more information on paid-direct appointments.

14.  We have a paid-direct candidate who does not meet the requirements for Postdoctoral Scholar-Paid Direct status and therefore is not eligible for Duke health insurance. What are their options for medical, dental, and vision insurance?

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Section 5: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Salary

15.  What is the Duke postdoctoral salary minimum?

  • As of July 1, 2024, the minimum salary or stipend for postdoctoral appointees (Postdoctoral Associates and Postdoctoral Scholars) will be $62,000. The minimum will be reviewed annually by the appropriate senior leadership at Duke University, taking into consideration various factors. Recommendations for changes to the minimum salary/stipend will be shared with each school. Any change will be implemented on July 1 of each year. The minimum salary is equal across departments/responsible units, both for Campus and the School of Medicine.

16.  I’m a Faculty Mentor/Principal Investigator with questions about the July 1 2024 postdoctoral salary increase. Where can I direct questions? 

  • Faculty mentors or departmental staff with questions about financing the postdoctoral salary increase should speak to their unit leadership (eg, business/HR manager, chair, director). General questions about implementing the increase may be directed to the HR Management Center or vpri@duke.edu.

17.  What are the general salary-setting instructions for postdoctoral appointees?

  • Individual stipends and salaries should be set following the guidelines below:
    • Postdoctoral salaries depend upon multiple factors, including the field of research/scholarship, competitive salaries in academia, years of experience, and performance/productivity. Therefore, the minimum compensation represents a starting point, and postdoctoral appointees may have higher compensation than the minimum.
    • It is not typical for an individual to be hired at a salary substantially higher than the minimum, and the initial compensation decisions are dependent on the factors and circumstances of each case (e.g., years of experience, competitive academic compensation for the field of study, specialized skills and track record of productivity). However, exceptional candidates or those in especially competitive fields may be offered a higher salary than the Duke minimum. Written justification and specific evidence should be provided to the unit HR managers for salaries higher than $77,500. Any plan that involves compensation above $77,500 must be clearly documented and approved by the Dean (or their designee) of the relevant school.
  • As a general rule, Postdoctoral Associate salary increases may happen only on July 1 during the University salary-setting period, except in unusual situations (eg, an external fellowship that dictates the stipend terms). Adjustments to postdoctoral salaries should be made using the Salary Setting tool. Prior to the commencement of each fiscal year, units should ensure that all postdoctoral appointees will be at or above the new minimum for that fiscal year, and that consideration is given to whether postdoctoral appointees should be provided with annual raises above any adjustments to the minimum based on years of service, productivity, and performance. The Duke staff merit pool is a helpful guide. Departmental/unit administrators should consider equity across their units while bearing in mind that faculty have some flexibility to pay postdocs higher based on the factors discussed above.
  • Please note that because Postdoctoral Scholars and Postdoctoral Scholars – Paid Direct are not employees and do not receive a salary, they are not part of the salary setting process. Therefore, changes to their stipends must be done manually through the Non-Compensatory Payment System. This includes ensuring that their stipends meet (or exceed) the Duke postdoctoral salary minimum.
  • Clearly documented funding from all sources related to postdoctoral activities, including those outside Duke University (e.g., foreign country support), will be counted towards the established minimum; however, only the amount paid through the Duke University Compensatory Payroll may be counted towards meeting the FLSA requirements for exemption.
  • Fellowships from foreign countries shall be supplemented to equal the Duke minimum if allowed by the primary funding agency.
  • Postdoctoral Associates may not be “self-funded”. Funding for salary must come from Duke or from clearly documented external sources, not from the Postdoctoral Associate’s personal funds or savings.
  • Faculty Mentors are required to provide a written performance evaluation on a yearly basis as part of their mentoring duties. The postdoctoral appointee should provide his/her written input to this evaluation, and the mentor and the postdoctoral appointee should discuss the evaluation together. Mentors may use the evaluation form and tools from the Office of Postdoctoral Services, which are based on the Individual Development Plan (IDP).
    • Each department or other unit is responsible for monitoring the annual review process.  As postdoctoral appointees are important members of Duke University’s research and scholarship missions, in addition to the annual performance review, it is important that postdoctoral appointees have regular communication with their faculty mentors on expectations, their performance meeting those expectations, their productivity, and their career goals.
    • If the Postdoctoral Associate does not meet expectations for conduct and/or performance, the faculty mentor/department must follow Duke’s Standards of Conduct & Performance/Corrective Action Protocols.
  • Salary Equity: While salaries are required to meet the Duke salary minimum, as a general rule, salaries for postdocs who are already employed at Duke and/or have more experience should be higher than that of newly hired postdocs.
  • Questions about salary setting may be directed to the HR Management Center or Molly Starback, Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Services.

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Section 6: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Benefits

18.  Are postdocs eligible for benefits?

19.  Do postdocs earn the Continuous Service Credit?

  • Postdoctoral Associates earn the Continuous Service Credit during their time on the employee payroll.
  • If a Postdoctoral Associate switches from the compensatory payroll to the non-compensatory payment system (ie, to Postdoctoral Scholar), his or her Continuous Service Credit will continue.

20.  Are postdocs eligible for the Subsidized Parking Program for Employees?

21.  Are postdocs eligible for the Employee Tuition Assistance Program and the Special Employee Tuition Rate Program?

22.  Are postdocs covered by Workers Compensation?

  • Postdoctoral Associates are covered by Workers Compensation. For details, see Duke Worker's Compensation and Duke Workplace & Safety Policies. Postdocs or department staff with general questions about Workers Compensation may contact Charles Kyles, Director of Workers' Compensation, at charles.kyles@duke.edu.
  • Because Postdoctoral Scholars are not Duke employees, they should contact their funding agency for Workers Compensation guidelines.

23.  Are postdocs eligible for the Kiel Memorial Voluntary Vacation/PTO Donation Program (shared leave program)?

  • Postdoctoral Associates are eligible if they meet the listed requirements.
  • Because they are not Duke employees, Postdoctoral Scholars are not eligible for the Kiel Program.

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Section 7: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Retirement Benefits

24.  Are Postdoctoral Associates eligible for the Duke retirement plan?

25.  Are Postdoctoral Scholars eligible for the Duke retirement plan?

  • Because they are not Duke University employees, Postdoctoral Scholars are not eligible to participate in the Duke Faculty and Staff Retirement Plan.
  • However, effective January 1, 2024, Postdoctoral Scholars will receive an additional supplemental stipend intended to provide these scholars with additional financial support so that they can better secure their short and long term financial and savings needs. The contribution will begin for Postdoctoral Scholars effective January 1, 2024. There is no waiting period for the contribution.
  • This supplemental stipend of $2,900 per year will be paid monthly through the non-compensatory payment system, and is in addition to the stipend augmentation for medical insurance tax mitigation that became effective July 1, 2021. This supplement is specifically for those Postdoctoral Scholars who receive their stipend through Duke (ie, NIH NRSA T32 or F32 recipients). The expectation is this stipend augmentation will be provided from the primary mentor's available funds; and if not available to the primary mentor, the department chair should determine the funding source. Federal awards cannot be used as the source of the stipend supplement. Scholars that are paid directly from another entity (eg, their compensation does not route through Duke University) are not eligible for the supplemental stipend at this time.
  • This supplemental stipend may be processed using the Stipend Augmentation Form found at the Office of Postdoctoral Services website. A copy of the stipend augmentation form should be submitted to Corporate Payroll along with the Non-Compensatory Payment Form. As a general rule, the stipend augmentation should run concurrently with the dates of the fellowship. If you have questions about processing the stipend augmentation form, please email Sarah G Lee in Corporate Payroll at sarah.g.lee@duke.edu
  • The stipend augmentation for medical insurance tax mitigation and the additional supplemental stipend should be processed as two separate lines on the iForm.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars who are eligible for this supplemental stipend may wish to consult their financial institution or a financial planner for advice on their personal financial situation and potential avenues for savings.  
  • Departmental staff and Postdoctoral Scholars who have questions related to the supplemental stipend may email Molly Starback, Director of Duke Postdoctoral Services, at molly.starback@duke.edu.

26.  Are Postdoctoral Scholars-Paid Direct eligible for the Duke retirement plan?

  • Because they are not Duke University employees, Postdoctoral Scholars-Paid Direct are not eligible to participate in the Duke Faculty and Staff Retirement Plan.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars-Paid Direct are not eligible for the supplemental stipend at this time.

27.  If a Postdoctoral Associate or Postdoctoral Scholar transitions to Research Associate Senior or another benefits-eligible category, when will they receive Duke's retirement contribution?

  • If the postdoc transfers to an exempt position that is eligible to receive the Duke contribution for faculty and staff, the postdoc will automatically begin to receive the Duke contribution after completing one year of service at Duke and attaining age 21. Duke's contribution for faculty and staff is subject to the normal 3-year vesting. The years of service include all periods of employment as a Duke employee, Postdoctoral Associate, or Postdoctoral Scholar, whether continuous or not, including periods of employment when the postdoc not eligible to participate in the Plan or eligible to receive Duke's contribution (ie, Postdoctoral Scholar status).
  • Example: Dr. Pat Smith was hired as a Postdoctoral Associate on 7/1/2023. Duke will begin contributing 4% of salary after a year of service, on 7/1/2024. On 7/1/2025, Dr Smith transfers to Research Associate Senior. This means the following:
    • Dr. Smith already has one year of service at Duke, and therefore will begin receiving the staff contribution immediately, but will not be vested until 6/30/2026.
    • Dr. Smith is 100% vested in the Duke postdoc contribution they earned from 7/1/2024 to 6/30/2025 (1 year’s worth of contribution).
    • Plan participants are always 100% vested in their own voluntary contributions.
  • Departmental staff and postdocs who have who have retirement-related questions may email Molly Starback, Director of Duke Postdoctoral Services, or Katherine Ortiz, Plan Manager of Defined Contribution Retirement Plans.

28.  For those who have worked as Postdoctoral Scholar for 3 or more years, would they be vested immediately in Duke's retirement contribution, or must the time earned be in an eligible category?

  • All time is counted, regardless of whether one was in an eligible category to receive the Duke contribution.

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Section 8: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Leave and Hours Worked

29.  Do postdocs accrue vacation like regular employees? If they leave Duke, are they paid out for vacation? What if they transfer to a regular employee position (eg, Research Associate Senior)?

  • Postdoctoral Associates may accrue up to 20 days vacation per Section 6-B of the Duke Postdoctoral Policy, but will not be paid out for it upon termination or transfer to Postdoctoral Scholar status (non-comp payment system).
  • Postdoctoral Scholars are not Duke employees, and therefore do not accrue leave from Duke. However, subject to the terms of the funding agency, Postdoctoral Scholars may typically take up to 41 personal days of absence (this number of days corresponds to the temporal distribution of leave for Postdoctoral Associates: typically 15 vacation days, 12 sick days, and 14 holidays and discretionary days as observed by the relevant school of the University). Upon termination or transfer to a Postdoctoral Associate position, a Postdoctoral Scholar will not be paid out for unused days of absence. For details on Postdoctoral Scholar leave, see FAQ Section 2: Moving from Postdoctoral Associate to Postdoctoral Scholar, above.
  • Postdoctoral mentors are expected to honor the reasonable vacation requests of postdocs.
  • Postdoctoral Associates are expected to request and use their accrued vacation in a manner that is reasonable for the lab/office, and record their time off in Duke@Work in a timely fashion.
  • Postdoctoral Associates who transfer to a regular employee position (eg, Research Associate Senior, Research Scientist) will retain vacation and sick leave accrued as a Postdoctoral Associate, and as regular employees will thereafter follow the Time Away from Duke Policy and Payout of Accrued Time Policy for eligible University staff.
  • Departmental staff and postdocs who have leave-related questions may email Molly Starback, Director of Duke Postdoctoral Services.

30.  Should monthly accrual of vacation/sick days for postdocs be tracked on a calendar basis (January-December year, like discretionary days), or by appointment date?

  • Postdoctoral Associates accrue vacation from the first day of employment on a prorated basis. Postdoctoral Associates are required to track their time off through Duke@Work because they are monthly-paid employees.

31.  What happens if a postdoc uses up all of his/her vacation and sick leave and requests more?

  • If a Postdoctoral Associate requests more leave after exhausting his or her accrued leave, Duke staff policies and procedures apply. See Time Away From Duke Policies and Time Away From Duke.
  • If sick leave has been exhausted, Postdoctoral Associates may take time without pay. A pay exception must be processed for that month.

32.  Do postdocs get parental leave?

33.  May a postdoctoral appointee work a part-time schedule at Duke?

  • Postdoctoral Associates may not work part-time. The Postdoctoral Policy defines a postdoctoral appointment as a full-time position.
  • For Postdoctoral Scholars, see the Summary of Leave, Part-Time, and Extension Policies available to NIH NRSA F32/T32 Trainees.

34.  How many hours worked per week meets the definition of a full-time postdoctoral appointment?

  • Postdoctoral Associates work an average minimum of 40 hours a week. However, more than 40 hours a week may sometimes be required to complete assigned tasks. Postdoctoral Associates are exempt employees, and therefore not subject to overtime pay.
  • For Postdoctoral Scholars, see the Summary of Leave, Part-Time, and Extension Policies available to NIH NRSA F32/T32 Trainees.

35.  May postdocs work remotely?

  • For Postdoctoral Associates, flexible work options may be allowed at the discretion of the PI and/or the department. Flexible work options must be requested and documented in accordance with Duke HR guidelines.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars are not Duke employees, but may arrange flexible work options at the discretion of the PI and the funding agency.

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Section 9: Questions Related to Reappointment Letters, and Evaluations/Individual Development Plans (IDPs)

36.  Must I do reappointment letters for postdocs in my department?

  • Yes. Written terms of appointment must be renewed 90 days prior to the end of each appointment term for Postdoctoral Associates. Reappointment letters provide protection for the Postdoctoral Associate and the department by specifying length of appointment, salary, and duties. A sample Renewal Letter Template is on the Duke Postdoctoral Services website.
  • Reappointment letters are not mandated for Postdoctoral Scholars, but the funding agency’s renewal form should be kept in the departmental personnel file.

37.  Do faculty mentors and postdocs have to do yearly employee evaluations and/or Individual Development Plans? Why? Who keeps up with the document?

  • Per the Duke Postdoctoral Policy, faculty mentors and postdocs are required to complete a written performance evaluation on a yearly basis. Providing written feedback is an important part of the faculty mentor’s duties. The postdoctoral appointee should provide his/her written input to this evaluation, and the mentor and the postdoctoral appointee should discuss the evaluation together.
  • Faculty mentors may use the standard employee evaluation form or the evaluation form and tools from the Office of Postdoctoral Services, based on the Individual Development Plan (IDP).
  • Each department/unit is responsible for ensuring that the annual review requirement has been completed. The PI, the postdoc, and the department should keep a copy of the evaluation.
  • Because postdoctoral appointees are important members of Duke’s research and scholarship missions, in addition to the annual performance review, postdoctoral appointees should have regular communication with their faculty mentors on expectations, performance, productivity, and career goals.
  • If the Postdoctoral Associate does not meet expectations for conduct and/or performance, the faculty mentor/department must follow Duke’s Standards of Conduct & Performance/Corrective Action Protocols.

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Section 10: Questions Related to Grievances, Ombuds, Discrimination and Harassment, Research Misconduct, and NIH Guidelines on the Appropriate Treatment of Research Trainees

38.  Can postdocs file grievances?

  • Postdoctoral Associates are eligible for the Duke University Dispute Resolution Process.
  • Because Postdoctoral Scholars are not Duke University employees, they are not eligible for the Duke University Dispute Resolution Process. However, a Postdoctoral Scholar who believes that they have been treated unfairly should first discuss the problem with the Faculty Mentor and/or the Chair of the department/responsible unit. Each school should designate a faculty member, or member of the administration experienced in postdoctoral education, whose duties are to serve as a resource to the Postdoctoral Scholar in addressing and resolving grievances. If a resolution cannot be reached at the level of either the department/responsible unit or through the efforts of the designated resource person, the Postdoctoral Scholar should present the grievance to the Dean for informal evaluation and, as necessary, adjudication. The determination by the Dean is the final step in the grievance process.

39.  Is there a postdoc ombuds?

  • The Duke Ombuds Office offers impartial and confidential support on a variety of issues to faculty, staff, and students. Pursuant to the International Ombuds Association’s standards of practice and code of ethics, the Ombuds Office serves as a resource to listen, discuss concerns, and help Duke community members explore options to address issues related to their work or learning. These services are available at no cost. For more information or to schedule a meeting, please visit ombuds.duke.edu or call 919-864-0772.

40.  How may postdocs report concerns about discrimination or harassment?

41.  How may postdocs report concerns about research misconduct?

42.  What are the NIH guidelines related to the appropriate treatment of research trainees?

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Section 11: Questions Related to Termination

43.  Must PIs/departments provide notice to postdocs? Must the Corrective Action Policy be followed?

44.  Are postdocs eligible for unemployment benefits? Who files an unemployment claim for them?

  • Filing for unemployment benefits is up to the individual, not to Duke University. Information on how to apply may be found at Division of Employment Security.
  • Postdoctoral Associates are former Duke University employees, and depending on their individual circumstances, may be eligible for unemployment benefits. The State determines eligibility.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars are not employees of Duke University and therefore are unlikely to be eligible for unemployment benefits related to Duke at the end of their appointment. An individual who believes they may be eligible can apply for unemployment benefits, and the State will determine their eligibility.
  • While Duke cannot advise as to postdoctoral appointees' individual situations regarding unemployment benefits, postdocs or department staff with general questions may email Charles Kyles, Director of Workers' Compensation, at charles.kyles@duke.edu.

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Duke Office of Postdoctoral Services

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Office of Postdoctoral Services - Policies