STAR Program

Staff Appreciation and Recognition plan

Consistent with practices throughout higher education institutions and other public and private sector organizations, UC for years has used recognition programs to encourage and reward superior employee performance.

The STAR program allows managers to give one-time cash awards to staff below the executive level in recognition of exemplary performance and contributions which further operational and administrative improvements within the university.

Summary of guidelines

Plan Eligibility

Policy-covered career PSS employees and MSP employees as well as exclusively represented employees in the Clerical Unit (CX) are eligible for STAR Plan cash awards if, at the time of the award, they:

  • Have successfully completed their probationary period, if applicable;
  • Are on active pay status or on an approved unpaid leave; and,  
  • Received a “Fully Meets Expectations” or better overall rating on their most recent annual performance evaluation.  (PPSM 23 requires that written performance evaluations be completed annually.) New employees who have not yet received an annual performance evaluation may be eligible for an award if their manager confirms on the nomination form that they are “meeting expectations” and attaches a written review of performance.
In addition, policy-covered employees and represented employees in the Clerical Unit (CX) with the following types of appointments are also eligible to participate in STAR at this location, provided that they meet the above requirements: contract, per diem, limited, floater, and/or casual restricted.

Members of the Senior Management Group (SMG) are not eligible for recognition awards under the Plan.

All other exclusively represented employees are not eligible for recognition awards under the STAR Plan.

An employee may not receive an award under the STAR Plan if the employee is a participant in an incentive award plan that prohibits the receipt of a recognition award.

An employee’s receipt of an award under the STAR Plan does not establish any right or guarantee that the employee will be eligible for or entitled to an award in any subsequent Plan year.

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Award Limits and Restrictions

The following limitations apply to STAR Plan cash awards:

  • No single STAR Plan cash award may exceed 10% of the employee’s base salary or $5,000, whichever amount is lower.    
  • Cumulative STAR Plan cash awards paid to an employee in a Plan year may not exceed 10% of the employee’s base salary or $5,000, whichever amount is lower.
  • STAR Plan cash awards are strictly discretionary and may not be promised or guaranteed in advance.   
  • “Across-the-board” type awards (e.g., awards to a category of employees without regard to a recipient’s performance or relative contribution) are not allowed under the STAR Plan.  Awards must be based on the recipient’s achievement as an individual or as part of a team. Awards must outline the team’s achievement and overall contribution to UCOP.

Exceptions to the above monetary award limits will not be made except in rare circumstances.  Any exception will require the approval of the EVP and Chief Operating Officer, the AOC, and the President.  Recommendations for an award that would be an exception to these limits must be submitted in writing to the Executive Director, UCOP Human Resources and include a compelling justification for making the exception.

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Nomination Process

The STAR Award Nomination Form (doc) must be used for every nomination.

  • Individual Award Nominations: Individual employees may be nominated for STAR awards based on one or more of the performance standards set forth in the STAR Plan.  Input will be required from the employee’s manager/supervisor if someone other than the employee’s manager/supervisor is nominating the employee.
  • Team Award Nominations: eam Awards may be granted to teams of employees who meet one or more of the performance standards set forth in the STAR Plan for work on a project within the same department or for work on the development and/or implementation of inter-departmental projects.  Input will be required from the team leader and each employee’s supervisor/manager if someone other than the manager/supervisor is nominating the team.

The employee’s supervisor is responsible for confirming that the employee is eligible for an award and must approve the employee’s award, regardless of the funding source for the award.

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Award Review and Approval Authority

All STAR Plan cash award nominations require endorsement of the employee’s immediate supervisor and approval of the department head of the department that is funding the award. In all cases, approval must include an individual with authority to approve the budget expenditure.  

STAR Plan cash awards up to $2,500 require the approval of the Division Head.

STAR Plan cash awards that exceed $2,500 require the approval of the EVP and Chief Operating Officer.

The UCOP Executive Director, Human Resources and Executive Director, UCOP Operations will review all STAR awards to ensure compliance with the STAR Plan guidelines.

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Timing and Processing of Award Payments

STAR awards may be presented at any time during the Plan year and should be awarded as soon as possible after the accomplishment or event in order to provide immediate recognition to employees.

The assigned Description of Service (DOS) code XSL specific to the STAR Plan, must be used when paying awards to employees.  

All STAR Plan cash awards for the Plan year should be processed in accordance with year-end closing schedules.

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Funding Requirements and Restrictions

STAR Awards are to be accommodated within existing division and department budgets.  UCOP is not establishing a central source of funding.  Unrestricted fund sources (mainly general and common funds) may be used for STAR Awards. The use of restricted funds is subject to any restrictions on those funds.

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Recordkeeping and Compliance

STAR Award Nomination Forms must be submitted to UCOP Human Resources for review and processing.  UCOP HR is responsible for maintaining copies of Nomination Forms and tracking and reporting on all approved STAR Awards.

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Plan Contact for Questions

Questions regarding the STAR Plan should be directed to Nancy Pluzdrak, Executive Director, UCOP Human Resources at 510-987-0840 or