human resources & onboarding

OPA Orientation and General Information

Section Contents

Human Resources for Post Docs

All postdocs are expected to read and abide by organizational policies (VU or VUMC as determined by the postdoc’s classification) on the appropriate human resources website:

Questions about benefits should be directed to either the VU or VUMC human resources postdoc representative:

A postdoctoral appointment is a full-time position. Activities are determined by the department/program. Requests to reduce from 100% FTE must be approved by the faculty advisor, dean of the school/college, and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. Reduction of effort could impact benefits eligibility.

InstitutionTitleCodeFunding SourceBenefits
Vanderbilt UniversityPostdoc Scholar, Research9145SalaryEligible for VU staff benefits, administered through VU HR
Vanderbilt UniversityPostdoc Scholar, Trainee9146StipendBenefits administered through AHP/
Not eligible for other VU benefits
Vanderbilt UniversityPostdoc Associate, Visiting9136Home institution country, or organizationBenefits administered through sponsoring home institution, country, or organization
Vanderbilt University Medical CenterResearch Fellow9132SalaryEligible for VUMC Staff benefits, administered through VUMC HR
Vanderbilt University Medical CenterResearch Fellow Trainee9134StipendBenefits administered through Gallagher / not eligible for other VUMC benefits
Vanderbilt University Medical CenterVisiting Research Fellow9136Home institution country, or organizationBenefits administered through sponsoring home institution, country, or organization

For any questions on postdoc classifications, please reach out to opa@vanderbilt.edu.

Benefits Overview

Eligibility for benefits is determined by postdoctoral classification as summarized below. A listing of postdoctoral classifications can be found in the table above.

  • Employee – VU Postdoctoral Scholar, Research and VUMC Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    The benefits below are for Research Fellows (9132) and Postdoctoral Scholars, Research (9145), who are classified as employees.

    Health Insurance

    • Employee Health Insurance
    • Enrollment required within 30 days of hire date
    • Coverage begins on start date of appointment
    • If your home department is VU, details located at: VU Human Resources
    • If your home department is VUMC, details located at: VUMC Human Resources

    The following additional benefits are available:

    • Dental Insurance
    • Vision Insurance
    • Life Insurance
    • Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D)
    • Short-term Disability
    • Long-term Disability
    • Flexible Spending Accounts
    • Health Reimbursement Account
    • Retirement Plan 403(b)

    These additional benefits are provided through either VU or VUMC Human Resources Department.

    Questions? Contact the appropriate human resources department. 

  • Non-Employee – VU Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee, 2023-2024

    Coverage beginning August 12, 2023

    Eligibility

    Non-employee postdocs (i.e., VU Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee) on training and fellowship grants (for whom no FICA is withheld) are eligible for the VU Postdoc Trainee Health Insurance Plan. The health insurance plan is administered by Academic Health Plans (AHP) and is Affordable Care Act compliant.

    Dates of coverage are August 12, 2023 to August 11, 2024.

    VU Postdoctoral Scholar Trainees have access to Lyra Mental and Behavioral Health telehealth services and Virgin Pulse wellness service. VU Postdoctoral Scholar Trainees also have access to the Occupational Health Clinic and the Faculty/Staff Express Care Clinic. Additional information can be found on the Postdoc Health & Wellness Resources page. Postdocs are not eligible to use the services at the Student Health Center (SHC) or Work/Life Connections – VUMC EAP.

    Postdoc Enrollment

    • Postdocs must enroll for health insurance within 30 days of the hire date. To enroll: Contact your department staff administrator who must submit a Benefits Action Form via RedCap.
    • Once the BAF is completed, it is automatically routed to the appropriate parties for approval.
    • Postdocs are not billed directly for health insurance. The department or program is billed.
    • The BAF is required for payment of premiums.

    Enrolling Dependents

    Postdocs may enroll their eligible dependents with an additional cost. Eligible dependents include:

    • A married spouse (husband and wife) or children (under the age of 26).
    • Domestic partners (same sex or opposite) are not covered.
    • Postdocs must enroll dependents within two weeks of the effective start date on the BAF that your department administrator submits to OPA.
    • Postdocs are not billed directly for dependent health insurance coverage. Your department is billed.

    Coverage for eligible dependents must be purchased for the same time period as the postdoc's period of coverage and cannot exceed coverage purchased by the postdoc. For example, an individual enrolled for annual coverage has to purchase annual coverage for a dependent unless a qualifying event occurs (see Qualifying Events section below)

    Benefits & Premium

    • The VU Postdoc Trainee Health Insurance Plan will provide coverage from August 12, 2023 to August 11, 2024.
    • Starting July 1, 2023, the AHP Web Portal will be live. Postdocs can access to review detailed information about your benefits and coverage.

    2023 – 2024 Postdoc Rates

    Programs/departments are billed for postdoc health insurance on a quarterly basis. The quarters and rates* are broken down as follows:

    • Q1:  8/12/23 – 11/11/23
    • Q2:  11/12/23 – 2/11/24
    • Q3:  2/12/24 – 5/11/24
    • Q4:  5/12/24 – 8/11/24

    Trainee – $994/quarter
    Spouse – $994/quarter
    Dependents under 18 – $1003/quarter (2x max)

    To Terminate Coverage

    • The VU Postdoc Trainee Health Insurance Plan is an annual policy with four termination dates: December 31, April 30, May 30 and August 11.
    • Termination can be accommodated other than the end of the quarterly period by crediting a monthly rate.
    • To terminate coverage: Department administrators must complete a Benefits Action Form (BAF). Your department will continue to be charged until a termination BAF is received.

    Qualifying Events

    Postdoctoral Scholar Trainees can also add eligible dependent(s) if they experience one of the following qualifying events: (a) marriage, (b) birth of a child, (c) divorce, (d) if the dependent is entering the country for the first time, or (e) the dependent loses coverage under another health insurance.

    Dental & Vision Insurance

    • The 2023-2024 SHIP includes MetLife Dental PPO. The MetLife Dental PPO plan includes coverage for diagnostic evaluations/x-rays and preventative services at 100% as well as basic dental restorative at 80% and major restorative at 50%.
    • SHIP will now include one adult eye exam per plan year, and Aetna’s Vision Discount Plan which includes discounted rates for additional eye exams, frames, lenses, contact lenses, and LASIK.
    • Additional voluntary supplemental vision coverage is available to postdocs. Postdocs are responsible for enrolling in this optional coverage and for making payments directly.
    • Postdocs do not need to be enrolled in AHP’s health insurance to be eligible to purchase voluntary vision coverage.
    • Enrollment is open all year and can be canceled at any time.
    • Coverage starts the first day of the following month after enrolling.  Payment is required on the 20th of each month.
    • Coverage will continue and will be charged until the postdoc cancels the optional vision even if the AHP health insurance coverage is terminated.

    Questions?

    Information regarding student health insurance may also be found at https://vanderbiltpostdoc.myahpcare.com/.

    Questions about insurance waivers, disenrollment, termination, or appeals should be directed to OPA@vanderbilt.edu.

  • Non Employee - VUMC Postdoctoral Research Fellow Trainee, 2023 - 2024

    Coverage starts October 1, 2023

    Eligibility

    Non-employee PostDocs (VUMC Research Fellow Trainee’s) on training and fellowship grants (for whom no FICA is withheld) are eligible for the VUMC Postdoc Trainee Health Insurance Plan. The health insurance plan is administered by Gallagher. For additional information, see 2023-2024 Health Insurance Plan Design Changes below.

    Dates of coverage are October 1, 2023 to September 30, 2024.

    VUMC Postdoctoral Research Fellow Trainees have access to Work/Life Connections-EAP, as well as Occupational Health.

    Postdoc Enrollment

    Detailed information is located at: Vanderbilt University Medical Center Postdoctoral Trainee Benefits Program

    Postdoc Monthly Rates

    Monthly Gallagher AETNA Medical Rates: 2023-2024

    Coverage TierBenefits Plan Cost
    Postdoc Only$834.80
    Postdoc + Spouse$1,936.83
    Postdoc + Child$1,711.42
    Family$2,771.69

    AETNA Dental Plans

    Coverage Tier (HMO)Monthly Premium
    Postdoc Only$19.91
    Postdoc + Spouse$39.19
    Postdoc + Child$50.05
    Family$74.55

    Coverage Tier (PPO)Monthly Premium
    Postdoc Only$35.26
    Postdoc + Spouse$69.38
    Postdoc + Child$88.53
    Family$132.00

    OPTIONAL MONTHLY AETNA BUY-UP PPO 90/70

    (Postdoc is responsible for enrolling and making payments)

    Coverage TierMonthly Buy-Up Premium
    Postdoc only$45.54
    Postdoc + Spouse$105.63
    Postdoc + Child$93.32
    Family$151.12

    All postdoctoral trainees enrolled in this benefits package are given the option of buying-up into the Aetna PPO 90/70 Health Insurance Plan for a small monthly premium. Many postdocs have asked if their grant/department will pay for the buy-up premiums, if the funds are available. Since the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs cannot be invoiced for postdoc buy-up premiums, you must discuss this option with your respective department. If approved, each department will determine how they wish to handle payment.

    Please note: If Gallagher does not receive payment for the buy-up premium by the scheduled due dates, the trainee’s benefits will terminate, and they will not be able to re-enroll until the next open enrollment period in the fall.

    Reimbursement/payment of the postdoc premium on behalf of the trainee is to be negotiated between the department and the trainee.

    OPTIONAL VISION

    (Postdoc is responsible for enrolling and making payments)

    Coverage TierMonthly Premium
    Postdoc only$8.93
    Postdoc + Spouse$17.86
    Postdoc + Child$19.64
    Family$28.57

    CoverageMonthly Premium
    Life, ADD Coverage$6.82
    LTD Coverage$4.30

    If a postdoctoral trainee chooses to participate in the optional vision plan or Aetna Buy-up plan, they are responsible for enrolling and making payments as necessary to Gallagher.

Leave and Time Off Policies

Postdoctoral policies differ from the HR policies at VU or VUMC.

Refer to the information below for policy details regarding Paid Leave, Holidays, FMLA, Parental Leave, and Unpaid Leave. Select the appropriate section based on your status (funding source and institution) to find your specific leave policies.

Please see the tables for a quick guide, or read the full policies below.

  • VU Postdoc Leave Quick Guide

    PolicyVU Scholar, ResearchVU Scholar, Trainee
    PTO – Any scheduled absences(e.g., vacation, sick time, extended parental leave)•20 days per fiscal year, prorated by quarters, 5 days a quarter. (Oct. 1, Jan. 1, April 1, July 1)
    •Must be used in the appointment year
    •All time off must be approved by your PI/Mentor
    Holidays6 official VU holidays plus Winter BreakIf NIH NRSA recipient, must comply with NIH policy
    Family & Medical LeaveUp to 12 weeks job protected unpaid leave if meet eligibility requirements under FMLA and up to 16 weeks if meet eligibility under TMLANot covered under FMLA. May take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if a trainee for 12+ months for reasons outlined on policy document
    Parental LeaveEight-week paid parental leave for eligible parents/spousesIf NIH NRSA recipient, must comply with NIH policy
    Unpaid LeaveNon-FMLA medical and personal leave can be requestedIf NIH NRSA recipient, must comply with NIH policy

  • VUMC Postdoc Leave Quick Guide

    PolicyVUMC Research FellowVUMC Research Fellow Trainee
    PTO – Any scheduled absences(e.g., vacation, sick time, extended parental leave)•22 days per fiscal year, prorated by quarters, 5.5 days a quarter. (Oct. 1, Jan. 1, April 1, July 1)
    •Must be used in the appointment year
    •All time off must be approved by your PI/Mentor
    Holidays8 official VUMC holidays. For information, visit: VUMC Holiday CalendarIf NIH NRSA recipient, must comply with NIH policy
    Family & Medical LeaveUp to 12 weeks job protected unpaid leave if meet eligibility requirements under FMLA and up to 16 weeks if meet eligibility under TMLANot covered under FMLA. May take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if a trainee for 12+ months for reasons outlined on policy document
    Parental LeaveTwo-week paid parental leave for eligible parents/spouses
    Must be used before the child is 12 weeks old
    If NIH NRSA recipient, must comply with NIH policy
    Unpaid LeaveNon-FMLA medical and personal leave can be requested.If NIH NRSA recipient, must comply with NIH policy

Full Leave Policies by Classification

  • VU Postdoctoral Scholar, Research ('employee') - Funded by sources other than fellowships or training grants

    Paid Leave Time

    20 days of paid leave time per appointment year.

    Paid leave time accrual will be prorated by quarters (October 1, January 1, April 1, July 1), 5 days per quarter. Paid leave time can be used for scheduled absences such as vacation and extended parental leave and unscheduled absences for reasons such as an illness or injury. Time off must be used in the appointment year and discussed with and approved by the faculty PI/mentor.

    Paid leave time used for vacation days must be approved in advance by the faculty PI/mentor. Paid leave time can be used for the postdoc’s illness or that of a family member. If an illness extends beyond the available accrued days, the postdoc may request an unpaid leave. Any unused time does not carry over and is not paid out at the end of the appointment year or when an appointment is terminated.

    All time off must be approved by your faculty PI/mentor.

    Holidays

    In addition to paid leave time, official holidays are:

    • New Year’s Day (January 1)
    • Martin Luther King Day (third Monday in January)
    • Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
    • Independence Day (July 4)
    • Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November)
    • Friday after Thanksgiving Day
    • Winter Break (6 days)

    Family & Medical Leave

    Up to 12 weeks* of job protected unpaid leave if you meet eligibility requirements under FMLA and up to 16 weeks in certain circumstances if you meet the eligibility requirements under TMLA.  For details, visit: FMLA and TMLA Leave

    *up to 26 weeks of military leave to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if you meet eligibility requirements.

    Parental Leave

    An eight-week paid parental leave to eligible parents/spouses is available which must be used within the first 4 months following birth or adoption.

    Unpaid Leave

    Non-FMLA medical and personal leaves can be requested in accordance with guidelines located at: VU Leave of Absence

  • VU Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee ('non-employee') - Funded by fellowship or training grant

    Paid Leave Time

    20 days of paid leave time per appointment year. 

    Paid leave time accrual will be prorated by quarters (October 1, January 1, April 1, July 1), 5 days per quarter. Paid leave time can be used for scheduled absences such as vacation and extended parental leave and unscheduled absences for reasons such as an illness or injury. Time off must be used in the appointment year and discussed with and approved by the faculty PI/mentor.

    Paid leave time used for vacation days must be approved in advance by the faculty PI/mentor. Paid leave time can be used for the postdoc’s illness or that of a family member. If an illness extends beyond the available accrued days, the postdoc may request an unpaid leave. Any unused time does not carry over and is not paid out at the end of the appointment year or when an appointment is terminated.

    Holidays

    If you are a NIH NRSA recipient, you must comply with the NIH policy located at: Sec. 11.3.16.1 Leave. November 2016.   If you are a non-NIH NRSA recipient, contact the OPA (opa@vanderbilt.edu)

    Note: notices of policy changes in the NIH Grants & Contracts can supersede information in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

    All time off must be approved by your faculty PI/mentor.

    Family & Medical Leave

    Although not covered under FMLA, you may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if you have been a postdoc trainee for at least 12 months. Trainee must use the leave for one of the following reasons: serious health condition of trainee or immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent); birth or adoption of trainee’s child or to care for a newborn child.

    Parental Leave

    If you are a NIH NRSA recipient, you must comply with the NIH policy located at: Sec. 11.2.13.1 Parental Leave, revised: 10/01/2017.  If you are a non-NIH NRSA recipient, contact the OPA (opa@vanderbilt.edu)

    Note: notices of policy changes in the NIH Grants & Contracts can supersede information in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

    Unpaid Leave

    If you are a NIH NRSA recipient, you must comply with the NIH policy located at Sec. 11.2.13.1 Parental Leave, revised: 10/01/2017.  If you are a non NIH NRSA recipient, contact the OPA (opa@vanderbilt.edu)

    Note: notices of policy changes in the NIH Grants & Contracts can supersede information in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

  • VUMC Research Fellow (‘employee’) - Funded by sources other than fellowships or training grants

    Paid Leave

    22 days of paid leave time per appointment year.

    Paid leave time accrual will be prorated by quarters (October 1, January 1, April 1, July 1), 5½ days per quarter. Paid leave time can be used for scheduled absences such as vacation and extended parental leave and unscheduled absences for reasons such as an illness or injury. Time off must be used in the appointment year and discussed with and approved by the faculty PI/mentor.

    Paid leave time used for vacation days must be approved in advance by the faculty PI/mentor. Paid leave time can be used for the postdoc’s illness or that of a family member. If an illness extends beyond the available accrued days, the postdoc may request an unpaid leave. Any unused time does not carry over and is not paid out at the end of the appointment year or when an appointment is terminated.

    Holidays

    In addition to paid leave time, holidays are published by VUMC Human Resources. For information, visit: VUMC Holiday Calendar.

    All time off must be approved by your faculty PI/mentor.

    Family & Medical Leave

    Up to 12 weeks* of job protected unpaid leave if you meet eligibility requirements under FMLA and up to 16 weeks in certain circumstances if you meet the eligibility requirements under TMLA.  For details, visit: FMLA and TMLA Leave

    *up to 26 weeks of military leave to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if you meet eligibility requirements.

    Parental Leave

    A two-week paid parental leave to eligible parents/spouses is available which must be used before the child is 12 weeks old.

    Unpaid Leave

    Non-FMLA medical leave of absence is used for a medical leave that does not qualify under FMLA. For details, visit: VUMC Leaves of Absence or speak with your department administrator.

  • VUMC Research Fellow Trainee (‘non-employee’) - Funded by fellowship or training grant

    Paid Leave Time

    22 days of paid leave time per appointment year.

    Paid leave time accrual will be prorated by quarters (October 1, January 1, April 1, July 1), 5½ days per quarter. Paid leave time can be used for scheduled absences such as vacation and extended parental leave and unscheduled absences for reasons such as an illness or injury. Time off must be used in the appointment year and discussed with and approved by the faculty PI/mentor.

    Paid leave time used for vacation days must be approved in advance by the faculty PI/mentor. Paid leave time can be used for the postdoc’s illness or that of a family member. If an illness extends beyond the available accrued days, the postdoc may request an unpaid leave. Any unused time does not carry over and is not paid out at the end of the appointment year or when an appointment is terminated.

    Holidays

    If you are a NIH NRSA recipient, you must comply with the NIH policy located at: Sec. 11.3.16.1 Leave. November 2016.  If you are a non-NIH NRSA recipient, contact the OPA (opa@vanderbilt.edu)

    Note: notices of policy changes in the NIH Grants & Contracts can supersede information in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

    All time off must be approved by your faculty PI/mentor.

    Family & Medical Leave

    Although not covered under FMLA, you may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if you have been a postdoc trainee for at least 12 months. Trainee must use the leave for one of the following reasons: serious health condition of trainee or immediate family member (spouse, child or parent); birth of trainee’s child or to care for a newborn child.

    Parental Leave

    If you are a NIH NRSA recipient, you must comply with the NIH policy located at: Sec. 11.2.13.1 Parental Leave,  Revised: 10/01/2017.  If you are a non-NIH NRSA recipient, contact the OPA (opa@vanderbilt.edu)

    Note: notices of policy changes in the NIH Grants & Contracts can supersede information in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

    Unpaid Leave

    If you are a NIH NRSA recipient, you must comply with the NIH policy located at:  Sec. 11.2.13.1 Parental Leave, Revised: 10/01/2017

    If you are a non NIH NRSA recipient, contact the OPA (opa@vanderbilt.edu)

    Note: notices of policy changes in the NIH Grants & Contracts can supersede information in the NIH Grants Policy Statement

Please email OPA@vanderbilt.edu with any questions regarding leave and time off policies. 

Submitting a Fellowship or Grant

If you are applying directly to an external funding agency for a fellowship or other research funding while a postdoc at Vanderbilt, please review the guidelines for postdocs submitting grants, then tell us about the application you are submitting by completing Fellowship/Grant Submission form.

We appreciate your assistance in helping us track fellowship/grant applications and aid in our data collection and outcomes reporting.

Please submit the Fellowship/Grant Submission Form before the application is submitted to the funding agency.

Accommodations

Vanderbilt University is committed to principles of equal opportunity and affirmative action. Persons with disabilities who have requests for reasonable accommodations should contact the Office for Equal Opportunity and Access.

Concerns and Complaints

If a postdoc believes that they have been discriminated against, harassed, or retaliated against on the basis of a protected class status as defined in the VU or VUMC nondiscrimination policies, such concerns should be directed to Vanderbilt University’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Access (VU employed/paid postdocs) or to VUMC HR (VUMC employed/paid postdocs).

If a postdoc has a concern or complaint regarding their postdoctoral experience, they should bring the concern to the attention of their faculty mentor, unless such an interaction would give rise to a possible concern related to safety, discrimination, or retaliation. If further discussion is needed and/or no resolution is achieved, the postdoc should meet with the home department chair and bring a written statement of the problem or concern. If the problem is still unresolved, the postdoc should contact the dean of the postdoctoral scholar’s home department. If the problem still continues to be unresolved, the concern will be elevated to the Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, who would make a final decision in consultation with the appropriate University offices.

Please email OPA@vanderbilt.edu if you have any questions.

Postdoctoral Termination

A postdoctoral appointment is at-will and may be terminated or ended at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice. A postdoctoral appointment may be terminated or ended for a variety of reasons including:

  • loss of funding
  • unsatisfactory performance
  • when the postdoc decides to leave Vanderbilt before the end of their appointment
  • for a violation of relevant Vanderbilt and/or VUMC policies.

All postdocs are expected to adhere to relevant Vanderbilt policies (and VUMC policies if VUMC employed/paid).

Postdocs should provide a one-month working notice prior to resignation per relevant Vanderbilt and VUMC policies.

Postdoc PTO/leave time is not paid out if unused.

For postdoc grievance policies, please review the Concerns and Complaints information in the above section.

Please email OPA@vanderbilt.edu if you have any questions.

  • Termination Check List
    • Provide a one-month working notice prior to resignation (if applicable)
    • Discuss timeline with PI/Mentor to finish out tasks in lab/area
    • Complete the OPA Exit Survey or BRET Exit Survey (for School of Medicine Postdocs)
    • Complete any necessary departmental exit checklists - please check with your department/division administrator
    • For VU postdocs, if email access is needed following termination, email OPA at least two weeks before end date