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Field-assignment Pay

Q

Some staff members spend significant amounts of time in the field due to
their job requirements. According to UCAR Policies & Procedures, staff
participating in registered field projects are eligible for field pay as
described here:

Staff participating in a registered field project receive field-assignment
pay for each day of a trip of more than 14 days as a supplement to all
other reimbursed travel costs. Field-assignment pay is equal to one-half of
the per diem rate specified for the employee's primary work location. Each
trip is considered separately for the purposes of qualifying for
field-assignment pay. Field-assignment pay is considered compensation and
is reported as income.

What is implied in this policy, but not explicitly stated, is that field
pay is subject to the full benefits charge (~53%), in addition to indirect
costs. It is important that staff be aware of this, particularly in
including field pay in outside proposals. Field pay needs to be placed in
the Salary and Benefits line of the proposal budget in order to request the
proper amount of funding.

Related to this, my questions are:

1. Why is the full benefit rate charged to field pay? Since field pay
qualifies as income, it makes sense that Social Security is charged, and
perhaps Medicare (depending on the recipient's income), but the other
components of benefits should already be covered (health insurance,
retirement, time off, workman's compensation, etc.). It seems that a much
reduced benefit rate should be charged to field pay (of order 7.9%).
Incentive awards and other monetary awards should be in the same category,
shouldn't they?

2. Why doesn't the Sponsored Agreements office look at proposed budgets for
participation in field programs and remind the principal investigator that
field pay can be included in the budget, and give instructions on how to do
it? Of the many proposals I have written requesting funding for
participation in field projects, many times I have forgotten to include
field pay in the budget. In a recent one, I did remember, but I didn't put
it in the Salary & Benefits line, so benefits were not included, and thus
that budget line is way overspent.

3. Is it possible to request a waiver of benefit charges for specific items
(such as field pay)?

Answered on September 24, 2008

A

To answer your first question: UCAR benefit rates are developed each year
using a methodology approved by NSF consistent with OMB Circular A-122,
Cost Principles for Non-Profit Organizations. The approved benefit rates
(full and reduced) are consistently charged to all wages expensed to
program account keys. The applicable benefit rate is determined by the
nature of the employee's appointment code. (See
Appointment Type Definitions and Codes
for the full list of
appointment codes). Thus, the appointment code determines which benefit
rate is applied, not the type of wages. This methodology applies to all
wages expensed, including annual salary, overtime pay, field pay, and
employee recognition awards.

To answer your second question: The NCAR and UOP Budget & Planning Offices
(B&P), rather than the Sponsored Agreements Office, are responsible for
reviewing and approving proposal budgets. It is the principal
investigator's responsibility to ensure that budgets submitted to B&P for
approval are completed correctly, i.e., they contain all of the appropriate
line items.

To assist the principal investigators and administrators in the preparation
of proposal budgets, the budget offices will amend their online budget
templates to include a field-pay line item with a link to the
Time Reporting/Payroll Procedures

including information on field-assignment pay to help assist
in the calculation of field pay. (On the Time Reporting/Payroll Procedures
website, see Other Types of Pay and Field-Assignment Pay.) Program
administrators and the budget offices will still rely on principal
investigators to incorporate this type of cost when developing budgets.

To answer your third question: Per OMB Circular A-122, noted above, it is
not possible to waive the application of the benefits rate or any other
UCAR/NCAR/UOP indirect rates. All UCAR rates must be applied consistently
and uniformly. UCAR is subject to an annual audit to verify that all
indirect rates are applied consistently and in accordance with the approved
methodology.

-Justin Young (F&A) (Questions 1 and 3)
-Melissa Miller (F&A), Rena Brasher-Alleva (NCAR Directorate), Hanne
Mauriello (UOP Directorate), and Gina Taberski (F&A) (Question 2)