Postdoctoral Scholar Policies
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill annually hosts approximately 1000 Postdoctoral Scholars on its campus. Postdoctoral Scholars (“Scholars”) are placed in many different departments and centers at the University, and they are associated with the University primarily with the goal to continue their academic training. However, some aspects of their relationship with the University more resemble those of employees.
Given the hybrid nature of their association, the University has developed these policies to better outline the University’s and the Postdoctoral Scholar’s obligations and expectations in various contexts.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will utilize the FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) definition of Postdoctoral Scholars. This includes the following criteria:
- the appointee was awarded a Ph.D., equivalent doctorate or terminal degree (e.g., Sc.D., M.D., M.F.A.) in an appropriate field;
- the appointment is temporary;
- the appointment involves substantially full-time research or scholarship;
- the appointment is viewed as preparatory for a full-time academic or research career;
- the appointment may be part of a clinical training program, if research training under the supervision of a mentor is a primary purpose of the appointment;
- the appointee works under the supervision of a scholar or a department in a university or similar research institution (e.g., national laboratory, NIH, etc.); and
- the appointee is expected to publish the results of his or her research or scholarship during the period of appointment, in consultation with his or her mentor.
Postdoctoral Scholars fall under one of two HR Rank Codes:
Code 27: Postdoctoral Fellow/Trainee—An individual with an earned doctorate, who holds a sponsored postdoctoral fellowship or traineeship, who is engaged in postdoctoral training through research for a fixed period of time, but no more than five years, and receives a stipend or training allowance.
Code 28: Postdoctoral Research Associate—An individual with an earned doctorate, who is engaged in postdoctoral training through research for a fixed period of time, but no more than five years, and receives compensation for services performed.
The University has adopted the following universal set of performance expectations for Postdoctoral Scholars:
- conscientious discharge of assigned duties;
- adherence to ethical standards;
- compliance with good laboratory practice and recognized University standards;
- observation of established guidelines for research involving biohazards, human subjects or animals;
- open and timely discussion with the mentor regarding research progress, distribution of reagents or materials, or any disclosure of findings or techniques privately or in publications;
- collegial conduct towards coworkers;
- compliance with all applicable University policies and procedures and
- upon resignation, provide 30 calendar days written notice.
Criminal Background Check
Postdoctoral scholars are fully subject to the University's policy on "Criminal Conviction Checking" for EPA Non-Faculty employees. Proposed postdoctoral candidates should have criminal conviction checks processed and reviewed in accord with this policy. Please refer to the Office of Human Resources web site for the detailed policy provisions (http://hr.unc.edu/policies-procedures-guidelines/epa-non-faculty-policies/terms-and-conditions/CCM3_015203).
Appointment of Postdoctoral Scholars
Postdoctoral scholars are classified as full-time temporary employees. Exceptions will be considered by the Vice Chancellor for Research for individuals who are unable to pursue full-time employment because of extenuating circumstances.
The maximum term of appointment for a Postdoctoral Scholar is five years. Following this five-year training period, a Postdoctoral Scholar must either be moved into an established employee position (download chart) or separated with a minimum ninety calendar days notice in advance of the five-year maximum.
• This term of service refers to total time spent at UNC-Chapel Hill under rank code 27 or 28, and does not include time spent at other institutions.
• To request an extension of appointment, postdoc mentors/advisors may submit a Request for Extension of Appointment form, indicating exceptional circumstances that require an extended appointment. This form must be cosigned by the Postdoctoral Scholar, as well as the department chair (or dean when appropriate), and submitted to the Vice Chancellor for Research. Requests for extensions will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Discontinuation of Appointment
A Postdoctoral Scholar may have his/her appointment discontinued for the following reasons: end of one year term appointment, maximum term of appointment, end of funding, or for cause.
Discontinuation of One Year Term Appointment
A Postdoctoral Scholar may have his/her appointment ended with ninety calendar days notice if his/her one year appointment is not renewed due to poor work performance or if his/her appointment expires.
Discontinuation due to Maximum Term of Appointment
A Postdoctoral Scholar may have his/her appointment ended with ninety calendar days notice if he/she exceeds the five year term limit.
Discontinuation due to End of Funding
A Postdoctoral Scholar may have his/her appointment ended with thirty calendar days notice if the funding supporting his/her appointment ends.
Discontinuation of Appointment for Cause
A Postdoctoral Scholar may have his/her appointment ended at any time during the appointment if he/she is found by his/her mentor to have violated the expectations set forth above.
Discontinuation of appointment for cause is to be preceded by written notice of intent to discontinue, and is subject to invocation by the affected Scholar of the grievance procedure provided by these Policies (see Section VIII, below). Therefore, the mentor should document concerns and discuss discontinuation for cause with the postdoctoral scholar and the Chair or Dean, in advance of providing such notice to the scholar.
If the Postdoctoral Scholar is on a Visa, discontinuation should be coordinated with the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and the Office of International Student & Scholar Services prior to giving written notice.
When a Scholar has been notified of the intention to discontinue his/her appointment for cause, the Vice Chancellor for Research may suspend the Scholar at any time and continue the suspension until a final decision concerning discontinuation is rendered; the power to suspend shall be invoked only in exceptional circumstances, and when it is determined to be in the best interests of the University. During the period of suspension, the scholar shall receive full pay.
If a Scholar does not initiate a grievance within 14 calendar days (as provided in Section VIII.b.) then the appointment shall be discontinued immediately without further recourse. If a Scholar initiates a grievance and the final outcome of the grievance procedure is to uphold the discontinuation of appointment for cause, then the Scholar’s discontinuation is effective as of the date of the final decision in the grievance procedure. If a Scholar initiates a grievance and the final outcome of the grievance procedure is not to uphold the discontinuation of appointment for cause, then the Scholar’s discontinuation is effective ninety calendar days following the date of the final decision in the grievance procedure.
A mentor of a Postdoctoral Scholar must complete an annual written evaluation of the Scholar’s performance. The evaluation process should be simple and must include the opportunity for the Scholar to respond in writing to the evaluation. (UNC Postdoctoral Scholar Evaluation Form)
Effective July 1, 2012, the minimum stipend for a Postdoctoral Scholar shall be no less than $37,088. This level will be assessed annually by the Advisory Committee. It is encouraged to provide additional stipend for postdoctoral scholars based upon their performance. Waivers of this minimal stipend level will be considered but must be for highly unusual reasons.
A Postdoctoral Scholar is eligible for:
Vacation Leave- a minimum of 10 days of compensated vacation leave (in addition to recognized university holidays) per year
Sick Leave- 12 days of compensated sick leave per year. Neither vacation leave nor sick leave can be carried over to a new calendar year.
- 10 days of vacation leave is the required minimum – an increased number of vacation days may be negotiated between postdoctoral scholar and mentor.
- Tracking leave is not necessary at the departmental level, but postdocs/mentors may choose to do so on an individual basis.
- Unused vacation and sick leave will not be paid out when the postdoc appointment ends.
- Leave will be made available in total on the 1st day of the postdoc appointment and will be reappointed annually.
- Leave does not accrue and cannot be carried over year to year.
A Postdoctoral Scholar is eligible for six weeks of paid parental leave to care for a new biological or adopted child, which includes exhausting all available vacation and sick leave. This paid parental leave must be taken within one year of the birth or placement of the child.
- Scholars are eligible to use up to six weeks of paid parental leave though they only earn a cumulative total of 22 days vacation and sick leave (approx. 4 ½ weeks) per year.
- Scholars may be eligible for Family and Medical Leave if they meet the eligibility requirements under the exceptions section of the eligible employees section of the Family and Medical Leave Policy: http://hr.unc.edu/policies-procedures-guidelines/epa-non-faculty-policies/epa-nf-leave/CCM1_017375
A Postdoctoral Scholar is eligible to use the University’s Mediation Policy (http://hr.unc.edu/policies-procedures-guidelines/epa-non-faculty-policies/epa-nf-grievance/MEDIATION) or consult the University Ombuds Office (http://www.ombuds.unc.edu/about.html) at any time to address a matter of concern.
Additionally, a Postdoctoral Scholar may use the following procedure to address matters of concern related to his/her appointment:
- The Scholar must make a reasonable effort to resolve the matter through discussions with his or her mentor.
- If the matter is not adequately resolved by discussion with the mentor, the Scholar may formally request resolution through the mentor’s section head, department chair, center director or other unit administrator directly responsible for the mentor’s professional activities. Such a request must be accompanied by a written statement describing the matter of concern, the supporting facts, and the disposition of prior discussions. The section head, department chair, center director, or other unit administrator responsible shall resolve the matter promptly, providing a written response outlining the reasons for the decision.
- If still unresolved, the Scholar may formally request resolution by the Dean of the School in which the mentor is appointed. Such a request must be accompanied by a written statement describing the matter of concern, the supporting facts, and the disposition of prior discussions. The Dean shall resolve the matter promptly, providing a written response outlining the reasons for the decision.
- If still unresolved, the Scholar may formally request in writing a resolution by the Provost.
Revision History: October 2003, June 2004, March 2005, April 2005, August 2005, July 2007, July 2008, February 2010
If you have questions regarding these policies, contact the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (919-962-9982)