Skip to content

STAR: Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the purpose of STAR Plan awards?
STAR Plan awards should be used to recognize extraordinary contributions that are above and beyond an employee’s established day-to-day job responsibilities. As such, they are an important strategic tool in implementing the campus’ new compensation philosophy and strategy. They are to be used for the appropriate purpose – to recognize extraordinary contributions – and not as a substitute for equity or merit increases, or as a stipend.
2. How are STAR Plan awards different from “spot” awards?
Recognition awards are available in two forms –
  • a non-cash employee recognition award (governed by UC Policy G-41), also known as “spot” awards that are limited in value to a $75 gift card or a one-month parking permit or transit pass value to $280; and
  • cash awards, which are provided via the STAR Plan.

3. When can STAR awards be presented?

Star awards may be presented at any time during the 2023 – 2024 plan year and should be awarded as soon as possible after the accomplishment or event in order to provide immediate recognition to employees.

4. What is the deadline to submit a STAR Award Nomination Form?

In order to meet the payroll processing schedules, all awards must be submitted no later than April 30, 2024. Requests received after that date will be returned for submission for the following Plan year.

5. How is the STAR program funded?

Department funds should be used to fund all STAR Plan awards. The total annual funding for the STAR Plan in FY 2023 – 2024 cannot exceed 2% of divisional payroll budgets of eligible employees as of July 1, 2023.
6. If someone is receiving a stipend, are they eligible to receive a STAR award for the same work?
See Question #1: STAR Plan awards should be strategically used for their intended purpose – to recognize extraordinary accomplishment – not as a substitute for equity or merit increases, or as a stipend.
7. When my stipend ends, can I get a STAR Plan award in its place?
Again, STAR Plan awards are for the purpose of recognizing extraordinary accomplishment – not as a substitute for stipends, which are intended to compensate employees for taking on additional, higher-level responsibilities outside of the employee’s current classification, on a temporary basis for a set period of time.
An employee should not be awarded a STAR award in addition to a stipend for the same work/accomplishment within the same time period. Please contact your Compensation Analyst for further guidance.
8. How do I nominate an employee or a team for an award?
To nominate an employee for an award please complete the STAR Nomination Form. To nominate a team for an award please complete the Team STAR Nomination Form. Please submit the STAR Nomination Forms and Team STAR Nomination Form to the Compensation unit via email at
9. Can an employee initiate a STAR award on their own behalf with their Supervisor/Manager?
Employees may initiate, but only a supervisor/manager can nominate. Nominations must be approved by department and division leaders.
10. Can I nominate an employee an employee who does not report to me (who is in a different department/school/division) for a STAR Award? 
Yes. Supervisors and managers may nominate employees who do not report directly to them; however, the nominating manager should consult with the employee’s direct manager and agree on who should fund the STAR Award. Typically, the nominating supervisor or manager’s department will fund the award. Once it’s been agreed, the STAR Nomination Form must reflect the name of the department funding the award. 
11. Are represented employees eligible for the STAR program?
Based on labor agreements, only CX represented, and KM-represented employees are eligible for the STAR program. U C system-wide guidelines restrict this program to other policy-covered employees. In order for other represented groups to be eligible, it would need to be negotiated system-wide.
12. Is there a limit as to the number of awards an employee may receive or the total dollar amount one employee may receive within a fiscal year?
Yes, system-wide guidelines state that no employee may receive cash award(s) totaling more than 10% of the employee’s base salary, or $10,000, whichever amount is lower. Additionally, if an employee is less than 100% time, the limits to cash awards will be prorated based on the percentage of their employment status (e.g., a 50% employee’s maximum cash award would be $5,000 [50% of $10,000]).
13 . What are applicable tax implications?
Cash awards are supplemental wages that are subject to Social Security (OASDI) and/or Medicare taxes if applicable. The Federal and State tax withholding will occur as follows: When paid separately, Federal tax would be withheld at 25% and State tax would be withheld at 6%. When a STAR payment is combined with regular wages for the current month, Federal and State taxes would be withheld at the graduated rates per marital status and allowances claimed on the W4.
14. Are Student Assistants eligible for STAR Plan awards?
No. Only non-probationary, non-represented staff, CX-represented staff, and KM-represented staff employees are eligible for STAR.
15. Who has final approval authority for STAR Plan awards?
Consistent with campus efforts to give division heads more control over their own budgets, division head approval is sufficient for granting an award from appropriations contained within that division’s budget. However, if an award exceeds restrictions outlined in the Plan guidelines (over $5,000), or if departments require supplemental funding, nominations must be approved by the Vice Chancellors Council. Completed STAR nomination forms must be submitted to HR-Compensation for compliance review. Once reviewed, Compensation will submit the approved STAR document to Payroll Services for processing.
STAR Nomination Form (Please complete for individual award nominations only)
Team Nomination Form(Please complete for team award nominations only)


Questions regarding the STAR Employee Program should be directed to the Compensation and Classification Unit in Human Resources at:


University of California Merced Staff Appreciation and Recognition Plan For Plan Year July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024