Staff Appreciation & Recognition (STAR) Plan


I. Plan Purpose

The purpose of the Staff Appreciation and Recognition (STAR) Plan is to recognize and reward employees in accordance with the following Performance Standards:

  • Exceptional performance: Demonstrated and sustained exceptional performance that consistently exceeds goals and expectations in quantity and/or quality.

  • Creativity: One-time innovation or creation that results in time/dollar savings, revenue enhancement, and productivity improvement; and/or ongoing innovative activities that benefit organizational systems, protocols and/or procedures.

  • Organizational abilities: Exhibiting extraordinary skills in leadership resulting in the accomplishment of significant departmental or divisional goals and objectives; effective project management including development and/or implementation with substantial success; and/or demonstrating organizational capability leading to greater effectiveness.

  • Work success: Significantly exceeding productivity, customer service, quality of care or similar goals, including demonstrating superior interactions with managers, peers, supervisors, subordinates, the University community, and/or clients and customers served.

  • Teamwork: Acting as an exceptionally effective and cooperative team member or team leader for a team that has significantly exceeded the goals/objectives of the department or unit.

II. Eligibility

In accordance with PPSM 34, Staff Appreciation and Recognition Plan (STAR), policy-covered career PSS and MSP employees; and in accordance with Teamsters Bargaining agreement, Article 45, Wages, represented CX employees are eligible for the STAR Plan Cash Award if, at the time of the award:

  • Employee received a “Met Expectations” or better overall rating on their most recent annual performance evaluation. Note: PPSM 23 requires that written performance evaluations be completed annually. Article 26 in the Teamsters contract requires the performance of each non-probationary career employee be evaluated at least annually, in accordance with a process established by the University. Employees who have not yet received an annual performance evaluation may be eligible for an award if their manager confirms on the nomination spreadsheet that they “Met Expectations”.
  • Staff hired on an employment contract where eligibility is incorporated into the contract.
  • Employees on pay status or an approved unpaid leave at the time of payout. If the employee is on an approved unpaid leave, the award will be paid upon their return to paid status.
  • Employees who have successfully completed their probationary period, if applicable.
Exclusively represented employees are eligible for recognition awards under the Plan only if the applicable collective bargaining agreement authorizes participation in the STAR Plan. CX Teamster employees are eligible for STAR awards.

III. Awards Limits

The following limits apply to STAR Plan cash awards.

  • Cash awards of up to $10,000 or 10% of annual base salary, whichever is less, may be granted to an eligible employee.
  • An employee may receive a combination of awards providing that the cumulative amount does not exceed the maximum allowable limit for the fiscal year of $10,000 or 10% of annual base salary, whichever is less, prorated to appointed time.
  • 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.
No exceptions will be made to the above monetary award limits.

IV. Nomination Process

The attached STAR Nomination Spreadsheet must be used for every nomination.

  • Individual Award Nomination

Individual employees may be nominated for STAR Plan 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

Team 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 department head 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.

Completing the nomination form:

  • Required Fields:
    • Employee Pay Status (Monthly or Biweekly)
    • Employee Name, Employee I.D., Represented (CX) or Non Represented (99), Position Number, Title Code, and Date of Hire
    • Actual Performance Rating (leave blank if a performance evaluation was not completed for 2019-20. Compensation will assume “met expectations” with the supervisor’s approval of the nomination), Name of Nominating Individual, and Nomination Justification
    • Funding:  ONLY if your awards are being paid from a source other than the employee's default funding, Compensation will now enter that information.  When coming from multiple funds, please use multiple lines. However, you will only need to note the funding on the lines for the amounts that are coming from outside funds.
  • Cross-divisional awards: Cross-divisional awards need to be coordinated by your department with funding provided on a nomination spreadsheet for entry. The spreadsheet should only include the cross-divisional awards.
  • Revisions/Updates: When making a correction or update to a previously submitted award, submit a new Nomination Spreadsheet with only the individual(s) using the strike out function to cross off and write in the new amount.
  • Adding Nominees: When adding new individual(s) please submit a new spreadsheet with only the new individual(s).
  • Separating Employees: Please note if an employee is separating from the University, so that we may expedite the processing of their award.

V. Award Review and Approval Authority

The process for all STAR Plan cash awards require endorsement of the employee’s immediate supervisor, approval of the next level manager and approval by the Principal Officer. Principal Officers may re-delegate their authority to the relevant unit head. The Chancellor must approve awards above $5000, including combined awards that exceed $5000.

VI. Timing and Processing of Award Payments

STAR Plan 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.

Departments must first ensure that employees are eligible for consideration in accordance with the eligibility requirements described in Section II above. Award decisions will be made consistent with divisional guidelines communicated by the relevant Principal Officer. Awards, whether for an individual or a team, will be made by completing the STAR Nomination Spreadsheet, acquiring the appropriate approvals and submitting the spreadsheet electronically to the Compensation Team at

Spreadsheets may be submitted at any time during the fiscal year prior to May 31, 2021. Compensation will review and notify you of check dates once they have been approved and  processed in UCPath. For consistency, please do not make any changes to the formatting of the spreadsheet.

Awards under this program are non-base building and will be paid as a lump sum. They are paid as taxable earnings through UCPath.

Please Note: If you are planning to offer an award to someone from outside of your department/division, you must contact the employee’s manager prior to making the award recommendation to insure that there are no conflicts.

VII. Funding and Reporting Requirements

At UC Santa Cruz, the STAR plan will be funded at the departmental or divisional level. Units will need to follow appropriate fund usage and/or restrictions. For example, general funds may not be used for non-general funded positions/functions. Federal funds are generally not allowed for awards, unless specifically approved by the granting agency. Reports on the distribution of awards, by fund source and personnel program, are made to the Office of the President at the end of the year. All awards are reported, regardless of fund source.

VIII. Record Keeping

Divisions are responsible for tracking amounts paid against funding available and ensuring that available amounts are not exceeded.

IX. Plan Contact for Questions

Questions regarding the attached guidelines should be directed to the Compensation Team at Questions regarding the STAR Plan payroll assessments or funding should be directed to Planning and Budget.

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