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Higher Postdoc Pay

A new change to the US Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will likely affect postdoctoral researchers and how they are paid, writes Michael Lauer, the deputy director for extramural research at the National Institutes of Health at his Open Mike blog.

Under the new provision, all US workers are entitled to overtime pay unless they meet certain exemptions, such as receiving a set salary, performing executive, administrative, or professional tasks, and making at least $47,476 a year. It's that last number, Lauer notes, that's changed, increasing from $23,660 per year.

Since the change was proposed, Lauer adds that a number of researchers have wondered how it might affect postdocs, as the current average annual salary for a postdoc is about $45,000, though it varies by funding source and region.

In an op-ed at the Huffington Post, NIH Director Francis Collins and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez write that under the new version of the law, institutes that employ postdocs have a choice: track postdocs' hour and pay overtime or raise their salaries above that $47,476-a-year threshold.

"Biomedical science, by its very nature, is not work that neatly falls into hourly units or shifts," Collins and Perez write. "So, from our vantage point, it seems that the only option consistent with the professional nature of scientific work is to increase salaries above the threshold."

To that end, they add that NIH will be increasing the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) stipends for postdocs above that threshold.