Frequently Asked Questions
This FAQ on changes to the NHFP Host Institution Employment Policy will be updated as we receive additional questions.
Through this change in policy we intend to ensure that all NHFP fellows will be given the opportunity to enjoy the benefits that full-time employees already have.
At present, NASA Hubble Fellowship Program (NHFP) fellows can be either employee or stipendiary fellows. Employee fellows are, as the name suggests, employees of their host institutions and receive the full employee benefit package of their host institution. While the NHFP does not pay overhead to the host institution, it does fully reimburse the host institution for the cost of the employee benefits package. Stipendiary fellows, on the other hand, are not employees of their hosts. While they receive the same salary as employee fellows, they receive no benefits, except for health care, which they, or their host institution, arrange for separately and for which they or their host institution is reimbursed. However, they do not receive sick pay, annual leave, or parental/family leave. Thus, while an employee fellow could take parental leave after the birth of child, and then extend their fellowship by the amount of leave they took, a stipendiary fellow has no such option. Furthermore, the income a stipendiary fellow receives is typically not considered to be earned income by their state or the Federal Government. As a result, not only do they not have an institutional retirement plan they can join, they generally cannot even create a tax exempt IRA. However, stipendiary fellows do not pay social security taxes and may have more leave flexibility than employee fellows. Thus which model is preferable will depend on the specific circumstances and desires of the fellow; for the majority of fellows the employment model is preferable.
Unfortunately not. A number of host institutions do not allow NHFP fellows to choose the employee model. At the same time, most of these institutions hire postdoctoral fellows using funds from grants provided to them by external funding agencies. hile the NHFP is a fellowship, it is structured like a grant to the faculty contact and the host institution. Officially, the responsible faculty member for the grant is the faculty contact and the fellow is paid through that grant. Therefore, host institutions that take and use grant funds to hire postdocs as employees should, in general, be able to make NHFP fellows employees as well. However, a number do not. Because of the usual disparity in benefits, noted above, between the employee and stipendiary models, this is not a situation that is good for the program or the fellows.
Some institutions have rules that would need to be changed in order to come into compliance with the proposed policy. Some have just traditionally made outside fellows stipendiary fellows. There may also be other reasons we are not aware of. Because the NHFP pays the full cost of the employee benefit package, any extra cost to the host institutions associated with fellows being employees should be minimal. However, to better understand the barriers that institutions may face in implementing this change, we are asking for comments on the policy through March 18, 2020. Comments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In general, stipendiary fellows don’t have any defined leave. Instead they work on a schedule agreed upon with their faculty advisor. This may give them greater flexibility in their schedules, but it also means that if they take time off for parental leave, their fellowship would not be extended by an equivalent amount of time, as there are no benefits to pay for the extension. As an employee, parental leave may be available, but leave is often accumulated over time, so employees may not be able to take sufficient parental leave soon after joining a new institution. In contrast, stipendiary fellows only need to arrange leave with their advisor. For this and other reasons, we encourage institutions to allow NHFP fellows to take a stipendiary position if that is what they prefer.
Fellows already at an institution that will not offer employee status may remain at that institution as stipendiary fellows, or may request a transfer to another institution that does offer employee status following the standard rules for transfer (see the NHFP Budget and Policy Guidelines).
As presently written, the new policy will require all fellows to be offered employee status. It does not require institutions to also offer stipendiary status; however, the NHFP does encourage institutions to offer both. While employee status is advantageous for the majority of fellows, there are definitely cases where stipendiary status will better match the needs of the fellow.
There is no grandfathering in this policy. All fellows would have to be offered employee status starting with 2022-2023, including those who are mid-award in order for the host institution to be eligible for new fellows. Note, however, that any individuals who are already fellows at the start of 2020 will be completing their fellowships by the end of 2022 at the latest. Fellows whose award ends in 2022 would not need to be offered employee status even if they started a bit late and their fellowship runs into the 2022-2023 academic year. Fellows in the class of 2020, who will start later this year, would be the first to whom this policy would apply (in their third and final year). One solution to avoid the possibility of changing the status of the 2020 fellows mid-award would be to offer them employee status when setting up their fellowships later this year.