The NIH responds to the ASBMB on overtime pay gap

UPDATE:  A federal judge in Texas has blocked the implementation of the new overtime pay requirements, originally set to take effect on December 1, 2016.  U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III issued a preliminary injunction, blocking the rules implementation nationwide.  The President and Department of Labor have not yet commented.

On Nov. 10, the National Institutes of Health responded to the ASBMB’s request for guidance regarding the implementation of the U.S. Department of Labor’s new overtime rule.

The ASBMB Public Affairs Advisory Committee had contacted the NIH on Nov. 4. The PAAC encouraged agency officials to provide guidance in light of the fact that the overtime rule is going to affect investigators’ budgets. The rule, which goes into effect in December, will raise salaries for postdocs, but it was unclear how the NIH expected investigators to pay for those increases.

In August, the National Science Foundation posted answers to frequently asked questions from NSF-funded researchers trying to abide by the overtime rule. The NSF provided guidance for rebudgeting existing grants and applying for supplemental funding.

In its Nov. 4 letter to the NIH, the ASBMB’s PAAC requested answers to the following questions:

  • Will the NIH increase the funds awarded to institutions to account for the increase in postdoc salaries?
  • Can grantees re-budget an existing award in order to comply with the final overtime rule, and would re-budgeting require approval from NIH?
  • Will NIH allow grantees to apply for administrative supplements to cover the additional costs incurred from FLSA overtime rule compliance?

Read the full ASBMB letter here.

On Nov. 7, the NIH released a notice offering a one-time supplemental funding opportunity for holders of Ruth L. Kirchstein National Research Service Awards.  This notice provided guidance for coming up with the additional funds needed for postdoc pay increases.

On Nov. 10, the NIH responded to the ASBMB’s questions. Here are the highlights:

  • NIH will not increase funds for existing, active Research Project Grants.
  • NIH will proved supplemental funding for NRSAs and current Institutional Traning Grants.
  • Institutions may re-budget Research Project Grant funds to increase postdoc pay levels.
  • Institutions may not re-budget Institutional Training Grants

Read the full NIH response here.

We urge the NIH to continue to provide the community with guidance as we move toward implementation of the overtime rule and encourage the NIH to develop novel policies and mechanisms that provide the rest of its grantee community with the resources needed to adapt to the imminent rule change.

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