NPA Continues to Advocate for Improved Postdoctoral Salaries
November 29, 2016
The announcement that a federal judge issued an injunction to the Department of Labor (DOL) updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) raised concerns about the status of anticipated postdoctoral salary increases effective December 1, 2016. Changes in the FLSA released earlier this year would have implemented a new $47,476 salary threshold for postdoctoral scholars, posing multiple challenges to the research community.
In response to the DoL’s request for comments to the proposed rule change, the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) recommended that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Research Service Award (NRSA) minimum stipend be increased by approximately 5% per year to reach a $50,000 stipend within three years ($50,000 was recommended by the 2014 report from the National Academy of Sciences,The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited). A phased-in approach would have allowed institutions time to gradually adjust to the new requirements and would minimize the need to reduce the postdoctoral workforce or impact postdoctoral benefits.
Release of the final changes to FLSA provided institutions with six months to develop plans for implementing higher salaries for postdoctoral scholars. Earlier this year, an article co-authored by Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., NIH Director, and Thomas Perez, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, acknowledged the challenges associated with subjecting postdoctoral researchers to carefully tracked forty hour work weeks. Therefore, in conjunction with the release of the final rule, NIH announced its intent to increase NRSA stipends for postdoctoral scholars to a minimum of $47,484 as part of its ongoing efforts to offer compensation commensurate with the education and training of postdoctoral scholars. The NPA expects that this minimum will remain, regardless of the implementation of the FLSA. This perspective was echoed by Michael Lauer, M.D., Deputy Director of Extramural Research at NIH, in a blog posted on November 23, 2016. The NPA continues to encourage institutions to treat all postdoctoral scholars equally, regardless of their funding source or discipline, and we recommend that institutions raise the minimum salaries of postdoctoral scholars to at least $47,484.
The NPA recently concluded a survey of many of our university and institutional members. We will be comparing the data with the NPA Institutional Policy Report of 2014 to identify any key changes, paying close attention to how salary has been affected due to the FLSA and NIH NRSA minimums. Preliminary results will be shared at the NPA Annual Meeting in San Francisco March 17-19, 2017.
The NPA will continue to collaborate with institutions, the DOL, NIH, NSF and other agencies as we navigate these fiscal changes and continue our mission to enhance the postdoctoral experience.