This month, NIH published the projected fiscal year 2017 stipend guidelines for postdoctoral trainees and fellows supported by National Research Service Awards (NRSAs). For NRSA-supported postdocs with less than one year’s experience, the stipend level will increase to $47,484. In keeping with the recommendation of the Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group of the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director, stipend levels then increase dependent on years of postdoctoral experience.
The 9% increase for the starting level stipend reflects the Department of Labor’s revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which are effective as of December 1, 2016. Under the FLSA, US workers are entitled to overtime pay unless they are exempted because they are paid on fixed, preset levels at or above the FLSA defined threshold, and are engaged in executive, administrative, or professional duties. In May, NIH announced its intent to increase postdoctoral NRSA stipends to levels above the new FLSA threshold, to align with the spirit of the FLSA revision and recognizing that postdoctoral research activities – like most biomedical research careers – often exceed forty hours a week and do not neatly fall into hourly shifts. Institutions that employ postdocs through non-NRSA support can choose how to follow the new rule. They may choose to carefully track their postdocs’ hours and pay overtime, or, they may choose to provide postdoctoral stipends at or above the new FLSA salary threshold.
Because the stipend levels announced in the NIH Guide notice are dependent on NIH’s budget appropriations, there are a number of key questions we need to still work through. NIH will be posting more guidance and FAQs about this in the coming months.