Salary / Compensation Programs

The main goals of our compensation programs are to attract the best possible candidates, to reward staff fairly and with appropriate equity for their work, to provide upward mobility in similar or different jobs for those who are interested and able and to retain our best staff. An important element of our system is that we recognize, and must be ready to admit to staff, that we cannot keep all salaries in perfect equity at all times. State-mandated increases for selected groups can disturb equity, as can different rates of development by different staff in similar decisions. Merit increases are often far too small to adequately reward differences in evaluations. What we pledge to our staff is that we constantly monitor our overall salary picture and coordinate changes in each of the programs as well as we can.

CSE firmly believes that staff must be well informed about compensation practices. Since current salaries are public information, we make the assumption that all staff can find out all salaries. While staff members do not in general deserve an explanation for an increase another person received, all staff do deserve full explanations of the decisions about their own compensation. A corollary here is that a manager should never make a compensation decision that s/he is not prepared to discuss fully with the subordinate, and if necessary justify to other managers or the University, including comments about future plans and options.

Rate-Setting Guidelines for UCSD Staff

Hiring Salary

Our system is focused on hiring staff at equitable levels to maintain morale and simultaneously provide steady upward mobility for staff members who are able to grow in their jobs. Campus Human Resources typically frowns upon offers made above the mid-point of a position's salary range; Under limited circumstances, exceptions to this policy can be made, but typically require a written request for approval from Human Resources.

The salary that we can offer lateral transfers is also limited by campus policy. If the transfer employee is in the same classification as the position s/he is moving into, then it is assumed that their level of duties will remain the same. As such, no increase should be given unless special circumstances warrant it and Human Resources approves the increase through the Exceptional Salary Increase (ESI) or "Equity" increase. Before offers are made to lateral transfers, the department carefully considers the impact the offer will make on the equity of current staff members.

Salary Increases

After an employee has passed their probationary period, there may be eligibility for both permanent and non-permanent increases their salary. Permanent increases are added to an employee's base salary, non-permanent increases are not.

Permanent Increases

When discussing permanent salary increases, it is important to note that campus rules dictate that the sum of all permanent salary increases cannot normally exceed 25% over a fiscal year period (July - June).

Range Increases

Normally, supervisors have no discretion concerning range increases. These are generally across the board increases of a fixed percentage or dollar amount for selected positions. Some union contracts also outline specific range adjustments that will occur from year to year. Funds are provided to the Department for range adjustments.

Merit Increases

Merit increases are permanent salary increases used to reward strong performing employees and are usually provided annually from funds allocated to the Department. In recent years merits have been relatively small and combined with range increases.

UCSD Staff Merit Pay Plan

For non-represented employees the merit pool is a fixed pool from which all increases must be funded -- the department cannot augment those funds. Supervisors are discouraged from using an allocation technique for merit salaries where everyone gets the same increase, even when the pool is small. This is a time to address inequities, at least in part, to encourage extraordinary performance, and, as is occasionally necessary, to emphasize and underline the message of a less-than-satisfactory evaluation.

Since we expect more than half of our staff to be evaluated at above-satisfactory levels on their performance evaluations, we need to use our merit monies carefully. The following is an approximate scheme for a first draft at merit distributions:

Evaluation Rating Merit Increase Recommended
"U" - Unsatisfactory Zero
"I" - Improvement Needed Zero to Less than Average
"S" - Solid Performance Less than Average to Average
"A" - Above Expectations Average to Above Average
"E" - Exceptional Above Average

The above is a guide only. Particularly large or small pools or unusual University restrictions can cause variations in any one year. In the absence of a performance evaluation conducted during the previous 12 months, an employee is presumed to have performed at least at the level of "S" Solid Performance.

For represented (or unionized) employees -- Whenever possible and within budgetary limitations, the recommended increase for union employees should be consistent with the merit increase guidelines listed below.

Evaluation Rating Merit Increase Recommended
Step-Based Open Range
"U" - Unsatisfactory 0 Steps Zero
"I" - Improvement Needed 0 Steps to 1/2 Step Zero to Less than Average
"S" - Solid Performance 1/2 Step to 1 Step Less Than Average to Average
"A" - Above Expectations 1 Step to 1 1/2 Steps Average to Above Average
"E" - Exceptional 1 1/2 Steps Above Average

In the absence of a performance evaluation conducted during the previous 12 months, an employee is presumed to have performed at least at the level of "S" Solid Performance. All increases for unionized employees are subject to the terms of their respective collective bargaining agreements.

Reclassification Increases

Jobs at UCSD are classified based on the duties and responsibilities assigned and exercised. As duties and responsibilities change, a position may be reclassified. Work volume and job performance do not justify reclassification. Reclassified employees typically retain the majority (50% or more) of their prior job duties and also assume additional duties. Classification review may result in a higher, lower, or lateral classification change. Reclassifications are rare and often occur due to changes in departmental administration as a result of restructuring or growth.

UCSD Reclassification Overview

Exceptional Salary Increases (ESI)

ESIs (sometimes called "equity" increases) are provided when a staff member has taken on different and often slightly higher level responsibilities, but not at a level or quantity sufficient to justify a reclassification. ESI's are also useful to restore equity among staff. They are not appropriate to recognize workload increases, nor simply new duties at the same level. Normally, ESI's require more justification at higher levels within the range than at lower levels. ESIs are only available to non-represented employees.

Human Resources recognizes five (5) factors justifying an ES

  1. Internal inequity between two or more positions.
  2. Assignment of higher-level functions that do not warrant reclassification to a higher salary grade.
  3. Position-related skill acquisition that represents more than normal job growth.
  4. External Market factors.
  5. Retention

Non-Permanent Salary Increases


Stipends are temporary salary increases that are provided for periods of not more than 12 months. They most often recognize temporary changes in assignment, for example, when a subordinate assumes many of the responsibilities of a supervisor who is absent for a lengthy period. More rarely, they can be used to recognize increased responsibility associated with a non-guaranteed future possibility, such as the preparation and planning for a future center for which funding is not yet guaranteed.

For non-represented employees, stipends cannot exceed 15% of their base salary, or the difference between their base salary and the minimum salary of the higher grade position, whichever is greater. Typically, for union employees, the stipend is either one step or the minimum salary of the higher grade position, whichever is greater. Frequently, stipends are less than the increase that would be approved upon permanent promotion because employees assigned temporary responsibilities at a higher level may be operating with more limited authority than those permanently assigned to the position.

UCSD Guide for Approving Administrative Stipends

Incentive Award Program (IAP)

Each year (usually in the Spring), one-time cash incentive awards are available to give out to staff. The purpose of these awards is to recognize exceptional efforts by staff during the year, over and above what is normally expected. Faculty and department managers nominate individuals who they feel are deserving of an award each year.

Some campus offices have established practices of either distributing IAP funding across the board at an equal level to all employees or prorated based on salary. CSE believe that this eliminates the value of being able to recognize special one-time situations or extraordinary efforts, so we do NOT follow either of these practices. Recognizing that it takes the entire staff working together to provide efficient services to the department, CSE gives out a small base award to all eligible staff. Individual staff members who have gone above and beyond the call of duty receive an additional amount above the base award -- their efforts are also recognized in other appropriate ways.

The pool of funds provided by the University for IAP awards has been reduced significantly in recent years (equaling approximately .5% of total staff salary expenditures). The department can, and often does, augment the pool of funds with departmental dollars, but there are limits to what can be allocated for this purpose. Some faculty members also choose to contribute to the pool using unrestricted funds (start-up, chair moneys, gift funds, etc.). Contract and grant funds cannot be used to augment the pool. Funds contributed are to the pool as a whole and not to any one individual. Faculty who contribute are recognized by name (amounts are not disclosed) in appreciation of their generosity.

Awards in this program are fully taxable and do not add to an employee's base salary.