Compensation and Staffing News
UUA Office of Church Staff Finances Mission
Guided by the values of our faith,
we equip congregations for excellence as employers
and their staff for financial competence and well-being.
November 2019

In some email readers, you may need to click on continuation dots to read the entirety of each article.
Refreshing the UUA Compensation Program:
Recommendations and Requirements
The September issue of Compensation and Staffing News featured an article about the history of the UUA Compensation Program and our plans to refresh it in phases. We'll be rolling out Phase I in early 2020. Here's what it's about...

On a regular basis, we learn of congregations making legal missteps related to personnel, including:

  • Treating someone as an independent contractor who should be an employee
  • Misclassifying an employee as exempt when they don't meet federal or state exemption criteria
  • Improper payroll administration for the minister, relative to their special tax provisions
  • Not abiding by benefit plan rules set by the UUA and our plan providers (Note that many plan rules are grounded in federal law – and please remember that these rules take precedence over congregational personnel policies and employment agreements.)

Mistakes in these areas negatively impact employees and can necessitate costly and administratively time-consuming remedies when discovered. In the case of UUA benefits, frequent errors on the part of participating congregations jeopardize our ability to offer these plans.

Legal compliance is the foundation of treating staff fairly. In keeping with our mission of equipping congregations for excellence as employers, we are eager to support you in strengthening this foundation. We don't want to see congregations at risk – and of course it doesn't make sense to say that a congregation "meets UUA compensation guidelines" if they are breaking the law in the process! So, we're making legal compliance the focus of Phase I of our Compensation Program revision; this will be accompanied by a change in language from "Guidelines" to "Standards."

Beginning in early 2020, the UUA Compensation Standards will include not only recommendations for salary and benefit levels, as we have provided all along, but also a checklist of legal requirements relating to payroll and benefits. For those of you making use of the Benefits Tune-up Workbook , the benefits sections of the checklist will dovetail nicely with the work you are already doing. (We're refining the Benefits Tune-up Workbook slightly and plan to reissue it in February.)

Introducing legal requirements into our program represents a significant shift. We're excited about this new way of helping congregations...and we recognize that it's likely to take some getting used to, for all of us, as we live into the changes together. Jan Gartner, UUA Compensation and Staffing Practices Manager, welcomes your suggestions, questions, and concerns.
Salary Recommendations
Prices (for just about everything) tend to go up every year. Based on recent Consumer Price Index data, a cost of living adjustment of 1.8% is needed in the coming year to preserve a typical employee's purchasing power. (Social Security uses a different version of the CPI for their COLA, so our number doesn't match theirs exactly.) Specific UUA Salary Recommendations aside, preservation of purchasing power is a fundamental compensation principle. Please keep this concept in mind as you budget for staff salaries in the coming year.

We plan to publish the 2020-2021 Salary Recommendations for Congregational Staff in January. Here we highlight some changes:

Adjusting Minimum Salaries
The midpoints on our salary charts are a reflection of median pay based on market surveys. This is what we consider appropriate pay for a competent employee with 3 to 5 years of experience.

Ranges for some positions in some church size categories are extremely wide (reflecting a lot of scatter in the survey data). This means that an employee hired near the minimum would need to receive very aggressive pay increases in order to approach the midpoint within a reasonable period of time. Let's face it – this rarely happens. In response to this reality, we are adjusting all range minimums so that they are no more than 15% below the midpoint for that position/size.

Range maximums will increase proportionally to midpoints, as usual. But some range minimums may rise significantly more, to keep the minimum within 15% of the midpoint. In cases where a minimum salary receives this extra adjustment, the "midpoint" will no longer be the mathematical midpoint of that range.

If you are paying some of your employees near the minimum of their salary range, you might discover that they need a boost to stay within our recommended ranges. If this requires an especially large jump, consider achieving it over two years.

Increases Varying by Position and Size
For the past few cycles, we have adjusted our entire salary structure by the same percentage. In other words, every position at every size saw the same increase in a given year.

Every few years, we do a deeper dive into the information provided to us by our outside compensation firm. This fall's review will enable us to fine-tune our recommendations. All midpoints will increase at least 2%, in keeping with recent and projected changes in church and nonprofit wage structures. We anticipate that midpoint salaries for some positions in some size ranges will go up as much as 5% to better reflect the most recent data. (Some minimums will rise more than 5%, as explained above.)

Rounding to Nearest $100
We've been offering our salary recommendations to the nearest $50. For 2020-2021, we'll round to the nearest $100 - a cleaner look without sacrificing usefulness.
In Brief
  • Open Enrollment for the UUA Health and Dental Plans runs through December 3. (UUA staff deadline is November 30.)
  • UUA insurance premium changes take place in January. Be prepared for adjustments on your invoice.
  • The IRS Form W-4 (Employee's Withholding) is getting a remake for 2020. The intent is to make it simpler and more accurate. Continuing employees need not submit a new form, although they are welcome to. The new version of the form (not yet finalized) is required for employees with start dates in 2020 and beyond. The IRS has an FAQ about the new design.
  • In light of the increase to the exempt salary threshold change in 2020, we are getting a lot of questions this fall about who can be classified as exempt. Please look back at the final article in last month's issue of this newsletter, which links to our Fair Labor Standards Act resource page.
UUA Office of Church Staff Finances
24 Farnsworth Street | Boston, MA 02210