Benefits and Leave

Benefits and Leave

The information below provides information on Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) benefits and leave policies including information on health insurance, sick leave, and retirement. Please note that your department or school administrator may have more specific instructions that you should follow. Some items on this list will not apply to everyone.

FY24 Changes to Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) Benefits & Stipends + Benefits FAQ's

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research is pleased to announce, effective July 1, 2023, the new minimum stipend levels for all postdoctoral researchers and fellows and the implementation of improved benefits packages.

For more information, please click the link below.

 FY 24 Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) Stipend & Benefits Changes

Penn Postdoc Benefits and Stipend FAQ

Benefits FAQ

Is enrollment required for ALL Postdocs?

  • Yes. You must participate by either enrolling or waiving benefits. 

I am a postdoc that is electing single coverage. Am I going to have to pay for insurance?

  • Yes. Postdocs electing single coverage will need to pay a modest monthly contribution that will be deducted from your paycheck. For the majority of plans Penn is providing a reduced monthly contribution for postdocs. This change to the insurance options was necessary to create more equitable and affordable options for postdocs who need coverage for their spouses and dependents. It will also provide expanded benefits to all postdocs.

You can review the monthly contribution rates (aka enrollment rates) for postdocs and researchers here.

Am I an employee of the college?

How do I know if I’m eligible for the Penn Postdoc Benefits Plan?

  • All PDTs are typically eligible for Benefits. Exceptions to this eligibility rule are rare. If you are uncertain of your funding source, please contact your department or the school’s business administrator.

Will my deductible carry over?

  • If you are a Postdoc Researcher or Fellow, your deductible will carry over if you enroll in the POS II Aetna Plan. If you switch to the Keystone HMO or Penn Care PPO plan, your deductible will not carry over. 

What happens to my benefits if funding for my postdoc position changes?

  • If your funding changes from NRSA to non-NRSA funding (or vice versa) you will need to switch benefits plans. You will be contacted by either Penn HR through Workday or Gallagher Benefits Services, depending on whether your support will be from NRSA or Non NRSA funds.

Do the new insurance options cover the J-1 visa requirements?

  • Yes.

My PI used to pay for my monthly contribution to my insurance. Will I have to pay now?

  • If you have previously negotiated financial support for the cost of the postdoc monthly contribution to cover your dependents or spouse, continued financial support is at the discretion of the PI. Please contact your business administrator and PI to confirm.

I am a new postdoc with a start date after open enrollment. When will I enroll in my benefits?

  • If you start prior to July 1, 2023, you will enroll with Gallagher for coverage through June 30, 2023. You will also receive communications to your UPenn email address regarding enrollment through Penn for benefits starting July 1, 2023.

Am I eligible for commuter benefits?

  • As of July 1, 2023, postdoctoral researchers and fellows can enroll in benefits. If you enroll in July, your commuter benefits will be available in August. Postdocs are also eligible for parking but they will need to apply and there may be a waitlist. Find more information here.

I have other questions about the benefits. Who do I contact? 

For postdoc researchers and fellows contact Health Advocate at 1-866-799-2329 or the Penn Employee Solution Center.

Stipend FAQ

What does “minimum stipend level” mean?

It means all postdocs have to be paid a minimum stipend amount based on their total postdoctoral years of experience. Postdocs and PIs can negotiate a higher stipend amount but the total stipend amount needs to meet or exceed the minimum stipend level established by Penn. Click here to see the new minimum stipend levels in effect as of July 1.

I was reappointed before April 1, 2023, will I switch to Penn minimum stipend level on July 1, 2023, even if it is at mid-appointment?

Yes. Your stipend will be adjusted to meet the new Penn minimum levels as of July 1.

I’m a postdoc with a reappointment date before July 1. Will I get my increase on my reappointment date? How much will it be?

Yes, if you have a reappointment date on reappointment date between April 1, 2023 and June 30, 2023, you will receive an increase on your reappointment date. Your increase will be based on your total years of postdoctoral experience and must meet the current NIH guidelines for minimum stipend level. On July 1, that stipend will be adjusted to meet the new Penn minimum stipend levels.

Will all postdocs receive an increase on July 1?

If your stipend level prior to July 1 does not meet the Penn minimum stipend levels effective July 1 you will receive an increase to align you with the new minimum stipend level based on your years of postdoctoral experience.

If your stipend already meets the minimum requirements, it is at the discretion of the PI or faculty mentor for any additional increase.

My reappointment date is after July 1, will I get another increase on my reappointment date?

Yes. Your stipend will be adjusted on your reappointment date to account for the additional year of experience.

I have more than four years of experience, what will my stipend be?

For postdocs with more than four years of experience, any stipend increase is at the discretion of the PI or faculty mentor.

Am I eligible for the Penn merit plan?

Postdocs are not eligible for the Penn employee merit increase program. A faculty PI or mentor is allowed to increase the postdoc’s stipend for merit purposes. Those decisions are made at the discretion of the PI or faculty mentor.

Health Insurance - Postdoctoral Researchers and Fellows

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) are required to have health insurance. PDTs will have three options for health insurance plans. For those electing coverage for partners or dependents, the cost to the PDT will be significantly lower. Medical, dental, and vision insurance plans will mirror options available to faculty and staff.

Three medical plans 

Keystone Health Plan HMO, Aetna POS II, and PennCare/Personal Choice. All three plans provide access to the Penn Provider network. For details, review the medical plan charts in the Postdoctoral Researchers and Fellows Benefits Enrollment Guide.

MetLife Dental Plan 

Choose from two dental options: Penn Dental or MetLife. Your share, paid through pre-tax payroll deductions, depends on the plan you choose and whether you are covering dependents. For details, review the dental plan options and current rates here.

VSP Vision Plans

Choose from three vision options: Davis Vision, VSP, and VSP Choice. You pay for coverage through pre-tax payroll deductions. Your cost depends on the plan you choose and whether you are covering dependents. For details, review the dental plan options and current rates here.

Fertility Benefit. 

Penn’s fertility benefit is administered by Carrot Fertility, effective July 1. Carrot will work with Penn Fertility Clinic and fertility clinics nationwide to support staff and postdocs in different locations, and the benefit will offer a concierge level of service. The benefit is a flat $ 30,000 lifetime maximum that can be used for a variety of fertility treatments.

No Health Insurance

If PDTs elect to waive health insurance coverage through the University, PDTs must certify that they have alternate health insurance that provides at least comparable coverage. 

Health Care and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) have the option to participate in one of Penn’s two types of Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA): a Health Care FSA and a Dependent Care FSA. These plans are administered by WageWorks/ HealthEquity. They provide you with a way to pay for certain out-of-pocket expenses with pre-tax dollars. They’re designed to save you taxes when you pay for certain eligible expenses that are not covered by other benefit plans. You can elect a maximum of $3,050 for Health Care and $5,000 for Dependent Care. You have until the end of the plan year to incur expenses and until the end of September of that year to submit eligible claims for services you received before the end of the plan year.

For more information go to or review the Postdoctoral Researchers and Fellows Benefits Enrollment Guide.

Life Insurance

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) are eligible for life insurance through Penn’s carrier, MetLife. PDTS will be required to provide their life insurance beneficiary information via the Workday@Penn portal.

You can find more information about any of the insurance offerings, here

Note: Your benefits base salary for life insurance purposes is calculated and frozen in March of each year. This amount will not change even if your salary changes during the course of the plan year.

Vacation and Mentor-Approved Flexibility of Observed Holidays and Winter Break

In any appointment year, a PDT may elect to take up to ten University business days as paid vacation days, on which days the PDT will continue to receive their stipend. PDTs are also entitled to the eight official holidays observed by the University and are eligible to take the University’s special winter vacation, during which time the University is typically closed. If a PDT wishes to work and/or perform research during an official holiday or special winter vacation, the postdoc can use the equivalent time as additional paid vacation days. PDTs forfeit any unused vacation days or holidays at the end of any appointment year. 


Sick Leave

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) may continue to receive stipends for up to 15 University business days of sick leave per year. PDTs forfeit any unused sick leave at the end of the appointment year. Under exceptional circumstances, a period of leave due to illness or incapacity may be extended at the discretion of the mentor. Mentors may request for any extended absence medical documentation from a healthcare provider, to be provided to an appropriate administrative office consistent with confidentiality. Additional sick leave may be approved at the discretion of the mentor.

New Child Leave

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) are entitled to receive stipends for no more than 60 calendar days of leave per appointment year for adoption or birth of a child. Either parent is eligible. PDTs must discuss the use of new child leave in advance with the mentor. A mentor may not deny a request to use new child leave without the authorization of the appropriate administrative office. Unused sick leave or vacation days may be used, with approval, to extend the period of new child leave. Additional new child leave may be approved at the discretion of the mentor.


Unpaid Leave

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) requesting extended periods of time away from their training experience, including leave in excess of available sick and/or parental leave, must obtain approval for a leave of absence without stipend continuation. Approval for such leave must be requested and approved by the mentor in advance. 

Record of Paid and Unpaid Leave

PDTs requesting extended periods of time away from their training experience, including leave in excess of available sick and/or parental leave, must obtain approval for a leave of absence without stipend continuation. Approval for such leave must be requested and approved by the mentor in advance. It is recommended that PDTs use Workday@Penn to track and record their leave requests.


PDTs who are classified as postdoctoral researchers or postdoctoral fellows are eligible to participate in the Supplemental Retirement Annuity Plan of the University of Pennsylvania. Under this retirement plan, eligible PDTs may defer a portion of their eligible compensation each payroll period to the retirement plan. If you have questions about your eligibility, please contact the Penn Employee Solution Center.

Expanded Childcare Benefit

Penn is committed to helping faculty and staff maintain a balance between work, personal goals, and family responsibilities. PDTs take advantage of a wealth of family-friendly programs to meet their everyday needs.

PDTs are eligible to participate in Penn’s Backup Care Program which offers up to ten days of subsidized backup childcare (minimum four hours) per fiscal year. Care can be offered in your home or in a childcare center including Bright Horizons centers, with some of the cost covered. To learn more about this benefit, please visit the Penn HR Wellness webpage.

Commuter Benefits 

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) are eligible to participate in Penn’s Department of Parking & Commuter Services programs.

The University’s commuter programs accommodate a variety of circumstances and include discounted, pre-tax purchases of commuter passes and cards that can be used for the robust network of transit systems that serve Penn’s campus. 

Penn’s commuter benefit provides a 5% discount on commuter fares and passes purchased through pre-tax payroll deductions and 10% discount on SEPTA monthly passes.Effective September 1, 2023, the University plans to raise the discount on Philadelphia regional passes to 50% with a maximum discount of $105 per month. The new discount is scheduled to coincide with the Department of Parking & Commuter Services’ launch of a new program management platform that will offer an enhanced user interface and related support services.This 50% discount will be available for transportation options including SEPTA’s Monthly City TransPass and Monthly Regional TrailPass (SEPTA Key’s Travel Wallet is not included), PATCO, New Jersey Transit, and Amtrak’s Prepaid 10-pack tickets and Monthly Pass.The Commuter Card will continue to be offered with a discount of 5%. This card allows participants to load pre-tax contributions onto a debit card that can be used to pay for a variety of eligible transit expenses. The pre-tax deduction of up to $300 per month will still be available, adding additional savings potential to riders.

Penn Bike Commuter Expense Reimbursement Program 

The Penn Bike Commuter Expense Reimbursement Program offers bicycle commuting expenses to qualified PDTs for any out-of-pocket eligible expenses up to $240 annually. Unlike a flexible spending account, reimbursement comes directly from the University and is considered taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service. 

Expense categories that the University will reimburse are bike purchases; maintenance, improvements, and bike accessories; parking and commercial storage costs; and safety gear. Purchases such as membership and program fees along with clothing and apparel are not considered allowable expenses.

Funding for this program is provided by the Division of Business Services in support of the University’s Climate Action Plan.

To see if you qualify for this benefit or for more information, please see the Program FAQs or contact

For additional commuter information and Office of Transportation & Parking contacts, visit the Penn Transportation Commuter Services web pages.

Employee Assistance Program

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) are eligible to participate in Penn’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).Penn’s EAP provides eligible faculty, staff, PDTs, and their families access to free, confidential, 24/7 counseling and referral services for personal and professional life issues from any location. EAP services are available by phone, email, webchat, video, and through face-to-face sessions. The Health Advocate EAP counselors will connect you with the right experts at the right time: masters level clinicians, work/life specialists, medical bill negotiators, and financial and legal professionals.  In addition, Penn PDTs and their family members can access free and confidential support on legal and financial topics. Receive 30 minutes of free legal consultation over the phone. The number of initial consultations per year on each new legal topic is unlimited. They can also receive 30 minutes of over-the-phone access to financial guidance about everything from managing current debt to making decisions about future purchases. Health Advocate offers multi-language capabilities.

Wellness & Behavioral Health Resources

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) are provided wellness and behavioral health services. Behavioral health benefits include the categories of mental health and substance abuse benefits. The behavioral health benefits included in each plan allow you to maximize your mental health and substance abuse benefits by utilizing in-network providers such as psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses or social workers, therapists, or other clinicians. Behavioral health benefits are integrated into each of the medical plans; however, they do not use the same networks. Benefits allow for a range of treatment options, from individual and family counseling to substance abuse programs and inpatient treatment facilities

To learn more about Behavioral health benefits, refer to the Postdoctoral Researchers and Fellows Benefits Enrollment Guide.

Penn also provides Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) with access to Penn COBALT. Penn COBALT connects PDTs to curated mental health and wellness content, live groups, and individual virtual support. COBALT uses targeted assessments to streamline content and triage PDTs to the right level and type of support. With its embedded scheduling and telehealth capabilities, it provides HIPAA-compliant mental healthcare at a safe distance. The available resources include peers, resilience coaches, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists, as well as podcasts, articles, mindfulness sessions, and other group support.

Choose from a variety of options, including one-on-one appointments with doctors, licensed clinicians, or resilience coaches. Penn Cobalt can help with the following methods of treatment and more:

  • Topic specific discussions
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychiatry
  • Coping First Aid (CFA)

The CFA program, hosted on Penn COBALT, serves as a resource for individuals who want to speak to someone for support but are not sure they want or need therapy. CFA coaches are trained to address a variety of concerns including those that are work-related, or other stressors, such as being new to Philadelphia, experiencing stress in the family, and much more. Coaches provide a listening ear, assess needs and concerns, and facilitate access to resources, including therapy and other psychological services, when necessary. CFA is free, has flexible scheduling, including during and outside of work hours, and is always confidential. 

Through Penn Cobalt, you can book your appointment online for a time that is available and convenient for you. Payment options vary by provider. Services may be free of charge, covered by insurance, or self-pay, and you may choose to filter by your specific payment preferences including scheduling with an EAP counselor. Penn Cobalt also provides helpful articles with personalized recommendations and revolving studio sessions with experts for you and/or your team focusing on topics like current events, staying active and healthy, and more.

Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call 988  OR  1-800-273-TALK (8255) – The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.