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Employee Compensation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Special Work Assignments (SWAs)

 

Market Studies

 

Position Management Forms (PMF)

 

Differential Pay

 

Promotions

  • How is an employee's promotional pay rate determined?
  • How is an employee's promotional pay rate determined if the employee is already paid at or above their placement in range in the new promoted market range title?
  • If an employee is promoted, when will they be eligible for a merit increase?

     

    Special Work Assignments (SWAs)


     

    What is an SWA?
    An SWA is a temporary assignment of higher level job duties to which the base pay of an employee may be temporarily increased to a higher rate due to:


    1. An employee’s assignment to duties of another, higher level position that is either vacant or where the functions of a position are not being performed due to the temporary absence of another employee OR
    2. An employee’s assignment to a major project of higher level responsibilities (i.e., an assignment that would ordinarily be performed by an employee in a higher level market range).

    Ordinarily, an SWA for an assignment to a higher level position may not exceed 10% of the employee’s current base salary or the minimum of the market range of the higher level position. Similarly, an SWA for a major project or other higher level responsibility may not exceed 5%.
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    How long can an employee be on an SWA?
    An SWA must be for a minimum of 30 days. Each request is evaluated by Employee Compensation to determine an appropriate assignment end date. SWAs generally should not exceed 6 months and may not extend beyond the end of the fiscal year without written approval from Employee Compensation through the SWA extension process.

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    Can SWAs have a retroactive effective date?
    Departments are advised to submit SWA requests immediately in order to ensure adequate time to review the request.  Generally, an SWA can be submitted with a retroactive effective date back 30 days from the date the paperwork is submitted. 

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    Are temporary employees eligible for an SWA?
    No. Any classified, unclassified, or contract employee may be eligible for an SWA, but not temporary employees.

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    Does a department need to have a vacant position in order to place an employee on an SWA for a major project?
    No, it is not necessary to have a vacant position in order to place an employee on an SWA for a major project.  The additional job duties incurred by the major project should be at a higher level and significant enough to otherwise justify the reassignment of the position to a higher level market range title.  SWAs for major projects should not exceed 5% above an employee’s base pay and should not last for more than 6 months.

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    Will all SWAs be approved at 10%?
    No, SWAs will not automatically be approved at 10%.  Requests will be evaluated based on a number of factors including, but not limited to, scope of higher level duties in relation to current job duties, employee's current pay rate, employee's placement in range within the higher level market range, and internal equity within the department and Countywide.

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    Is SWA pay received while on leave?
    No. SWA pay is only paid on hours worked and is not paid while an employee is on a paid or unpaid leave (i.e. holiday, vacation, sick, bereavement leave, civic duty leave, witness leave, military leave, administrative leave, floating personal day, jury duty leave, etc).

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    If an employee on SWA is promoted into the position in which they were receiving the SWA, will their promoted pay rate be the same as their SWA pay rate?
    Not, necessarily.  The SWA pay rate is provided to an employee to compensate him/her for performing two jobs: the employee’s regular job and the higher level SWA job.  If an employee is promoted into the SWA position, he/she no longer meets the SWA criteria of performing higher level job duties of another position and would not be eligible to receive SWA pay.  An employee’s promotional pay rate will be determined based on direct experience and internal equity within the department and across the County.  Thus, the employee’s pay rate may not necessarily be the same as the pay rate the employee received while on SWA. 

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    Can an SWA be continued after the vacant position is filled in order to allow for training of the new employee?
    The original SWA should be ended when the vacant position is filled and is not continued to allow for training of a new employee.  Since the vacant position has been filled, the employee is likely not performing the SWA in the same capacity in which they were initially placed on SWA.

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    If an employee is eligible to receive a pay for performance increase or a market adjustment for their permanent job while on an SWA, how will their new base rate be calculated?
    Pay increases during an SWA will be calculated on an employee’s base pay rate (i.e., not including the SWA amount).  To calculate the employee’s base pay rate, the temporary SWA amount is removed from the employee’s current pay which equals the base rate.  The pay increase is applied to this base rate.  The SWA amount (in dollars) is then added back to the new base rate to determine the employee’s new pay rate including SWA.


    For example: An employee is making a base rate of $10.00 per hour and is approved for a 7.5% SWA.  Their new rate is now $10.75 per hour.  If the employee is eligible for a 3.0% merit, the 3.0% is calculated on the $10.00 per hour bringing the final pay rate to $11.05 per hour ($10.00*3%) + ($10.75 - $10.00).
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    When do SWAs need to be extended?
    All SWAs, regardless of begin date, must be submitted for an extension (if appropriate) at the beginning of each fiscal year.  Employee Compensation will review the need for the continued SWA and approve an assignment end date.  A number of factors will be considered during the extension process such as: length and reason of original SWA, recruitment efforts to fill the vacant position, turnover, staffing issues, and progress of the major project.  Written timelines for expected returns from SWA should be provided with SWA extension requests.


    SWAs should also be renewed at the end of the initial projected end date that was submitted on the original SWA form.  For example, if an SWA was submitted and approved with an end date of September 1st and the department feels the SWA should be extended, an SWA extension request needs to be submitted prior to September 1st providing justification to extend the assignment.
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    Contract Employment


     

    If an employee is hired as a contract employee in June, does a contract renewal still need to be completed for the new fiscal year?
    Yes. Per the County’s Compensation Plan, all contracts must be renewed at the beginning of each fiscal year.  Even though the new fiscal year may only be a few weeks after the employee’s original contract effective date, a contract renewal still needs to be completed at the beginning of the new fiscal year.  Additionally, no contract end date should extend past June 30th of the current fiscal year.

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    Is a department required to provide contract employees with PTO?
    No, it is at the discretion of the department director whether or not to provide a contract employee with PTO. If a department chooses to provide PTO to a contract employee, the amount of leave given cannot exceed the amount of leave a merit covered employee with equivalent years of credited service would accrue in a calendar year.


    Leave given to contract employees is provided in a lump sum and any balance remaining at the end of the fiscal year or upon termination of the contract is forfeited and not carried over to the new fiscal year or paid out upon termination.
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    When hiring a new contract employee or renewing a current employee’s contract, how should a department calculate the employee’s PTO lump sum amount?
    If a department chooses to provide a contract employee with a lump sum of PTO, the amount of leave given is at the discretion of the department director and cannot exceed the amount of leave a merit covered employee with equivalent years of credited service would accrue in a calendar year.


    The PTO calculation should cover the time period from the effective date of the contract/contract renewal until the end of the current fiscal year or contract end date (in the event the contract position is expected to be inactivated before the end of the fiscal year).  For example, if a contract employee is hired May 1st with four pay periods remaining in the fiscal year, their maximum PTO calculation should be based on the appropriate PTO amount (not to exceed the amount a merit covered employee with equivalent ASRS service would accrue during the time period) for 4 pay periods; not an entire year. The contract renewal in the new fiscal year will cover the time period from the beginning until the end of the fiscal year or contract end date (in the event the contract position is expected to be inactivated before the end of the fiscal year).
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    If an employee’s ASRS service date will reach a level later in the current fiscal year in which they could be considered for a higher amount of PTO, can the higher amount be included in the original contract or contract renewal even though they haven’t reached the service date yet?
    No.  When a contract or contract renewal is completed, the maximum PTO calculation must be based off of the employee’s ASRS service date as of the effective date of the contract.  If the employee’s ASRS service date changes mid-year, a contract revision form may be submitted at the discretion of the department director to adjust the employee’s PTO balance.  The revised lump sum amount must be reduced by the amount of PTO already taken in that fiscal year.  Otherwise, their lump sum of PTO can be adjusted if their contract is renewed at the beginning of the next contract renewal. 

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    How long can an employee be considered a contract employee?
    The purpose of a contract position is based on a department’s business needs.  A contract position should be based on the premise that the nature of the work being performed has a beginning and end date or is based on a temporary funding source. 

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    Can a department increase a contract employee’s pay rate using a contract renewal or revision form?
    No. Salary advancements for contract employees must be requested using the salary advancement process.  If approved, salary advancements serve as an amendment to the employee’s contract.  Subsequent contracts (renewals or revisions) should reflect the rate of pay at the contract beginning effective date.

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    Market Studies


     

    How are positions prioritized to be studied?
    Employee Compensation prioritizes market studies based on turnover, vacancy, and impact on essential public services. The current priorities have been identified from those market ranges that have turnover rates of 10% or more and/or where more than five employees have separated within the last twelve months with an essential public service, and have not had a recent market study implemented.

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    How are positions studied?
    Departments are asked to provide Employee Compensation with updated job descriptions reflective of a position’s job duties and organizational structure.  In some instances, additional information such as Position Description Questionnaires (PDQs) (otherwise known as Job Content Questionnaires (JCQs)) and/or on-site interviews are necessary.  Job description templates with instructions and PDQ/JCQ forms are provided by Employee Compensation.  All positions are reviewed for understanding of job duties and responsibilities in relationship to the department’s purpose. 

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    How often are positions studied?
    Generally, market studies will be completed on a 2-3 year cycle. Employee Compensation observes rapid market changes and analyzes voluntary turnover, vacancy rates, and impact on essential public services to prioritize market studies.  These factors can impact when a market range title is studied.  As market studies continue to be completed on this cycle, it is not likely that they will result in significant, across the board market increases.  They will more frequently only result in changes to employees below the “new min” and at the “old max” of the market range.

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    How is a Market Study Performed?
    With the understanding of the position’s responsibilities, Employee Compensation surveys market practices to determine salary ranges.  In the majority of instances, local data (such as cities and towns surrounding the Phoenix metropolitan area) is used for most positions.  Positions of a specific function found primarily in county jurisdictions are compared against other counties typically located in the South-Western and Lower Mountain regions.  When necessary, private sector and data from purchased surveys are utilized.  Salary ranges are developed upon the thorough analysis of market practices for like positions ranging from entry through senior/lead levels of a job family.  When market observations result in significantly higher pay for senior/lead level positions, Employee Compensation may mirror this practice by distinguishing a separate market range title for senior/lead levels. 

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    What is a Market Range Title?
    A Market Range Title (MRT) is a broad summary description of likely job duties and responsibilities, minimum qualifications and typical working titles of positions included in the Market Range. Each position included in a MRT also has a job description that is specific to the department. Departments are responsible for writing and maintaining job descriptions for positions in their department. Employee Compensation is responsible for writing and maintaining Market Range Title Descriptions.

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    How is a Position Assigned to a Market Range Title?
    Once market observations and comparator positions are grouped, Market Range Titles (MRTs) are developed to which positions included in market studies are assigned.  Each position included in the study is assigned to the MRT most similar to, and reflective of, the position’s tasks and responsibilities as presented in the documentation provided by the department.

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    How are Departments Informed of Position Market Range Title Assignments?
    Communications are sent to (typically Human Resources) liaisons in each department included in a market study to relay new MRT descriptions.  Also included in this communication is a detailed listing of each position and its assigned MRT and recommended working title. The purpose of this communication is to inform each impacted department of the market study progress and to provide departments with the opportunity to give feedback regarding new MRTs being developed, position assignment to an MRT, or working title changes. 

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    What is a Placement in Range?
    The placement in range is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that combines developed salary range information and crediting factors alongside employee specific level data to determine an appropriate pay rate within the developed range for each employee.  This spreadsheet is also used to determine the costs associated with these market adjustments so that Maricopa County can budget appropriately and ensure the County remains fiscally sound. 

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    What is the “Glide” Placement in Range Methodology? 
    Salary ranges for bona fide professional capacity positions within the County utilize a placement in range methodology that is more aggressive in the earlier years/stages of each career path.  This approach addresses the turnover of less tenured professional employees as well as allowing for Maricopa County to remain more competitive with market observed practices. Essentially, the placement in range methodology for professional level positions is a “glide” from slightly more aggressive percentages in the first half of the salary range, gradually declining to less aggressive in the second half. 

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    How is an Employee’s Experience Valued for Placement within the Salary Range?
    Department representatives are asked to collect employee specific experience data from employee files and through the County’s Personnel Information Management System (PeopleSoft). Employee level data spreadsheets with instructions are provided by Employee Compensation to assist in completing this task consistently across the County.  Each employee’s experience, both internal and external to the County, is considered. 


    • All direct County experience – experience performing essentially identical job tasks as a Maricopa County employee – is credited at 100% without a cap limitation up to the maximum of the Board approved market range.
    • Prior direct experience – experience performing essentially identical job tasks working outside of Maricopa County – is credited at a rate consistent with market observations, typically 50%, and capped at the midpoint year of the developed salary range. 
    • Consideration of Indirect experience is not considered for placement in range purposes under the current placement strategy; indirect experience is considered for purposes of evaluating job candidates, and in determining whether a candidate is qualified for a position but should not be considered for placement within the position’s salary range. 

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    How is Merit Factored into the Placement in Range?
    Employee performance ratings (as reflected by performance scores) are also used in determining an employee’s placement within the developed salary range.   Comparator data used to develop salary ranges represents the pay of an employee “Meeting” performance expectations.  Employees with “Exceeds” or “Outstanding” performance ratings are recognized in the placement in range by advancing his/her placement by an additional percentage (for Fiscal Years 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 this was 1.5% and 3.5% respectively) above the market adjusted rate, not to exceed the maximum of the developed salary range.  These percentages may change as market indicates and funding allows.  

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    Why is direct experience capped at mid-point?
    The practice of capping external Maricopa County experience is to ensure that long-term Maricopa County employees have the potential to be valued more than a new hire performing essentially the same job duties.

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    How are Market Adjustments Different than Merit Increases?
    Market adjustments are increases in an employee’s base pay rate as a result of market observations indicating that the position is being underpaid or under valued.  In short, market adjustments are processed when local jurisdictions are, on average, paying more for essentially the same position.  Market adjustments are in response to underpaid positions. 


    Merit increases are increases in an employee’s base pay rate to recognize an employee’s performance in completing his/her job tasks and responsibilities at or above management’s expectations. 


    Market adjustments are to evaluate the position; merit increases are to evaluate the employee. 
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    How are Merit Increases After Market Studies Handled?
    Employees included in a market study who obtain his/her one year anniversary of employment within their position after the effective date of the market study will be given pay for performance consistent with the placement in range strategy used for their market study.  For Fiscal Year 2006-2007, the placement in range strategy used for all market studies was:


    • “Meets” evaluation rating – no additional increase because the market rate represents a solid performance level.
    • “Exceeds” evaluation rating – 1.5% additional increase above market adjusted base rate.
    • “Outstanding” evaluation rating – 3.5% additional increase above market adjusted base rate.

    This applies only to merit eligible employees included in a market study up through the fiscal year end (June 30th) of the year in which they had a market study completed.  All pay for performance eligible employees (as stipulated by the Performance-Based Salary Advancement Plan) are eligible to receive the amount determined by their department for their performance rating at the beginning of the next Fiscal Year as approved by the Board of Supervisors.
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    How are Departments Informed of an Employee’s Placement within a Salary Range?
    Communications are sent to (typically Human Resources) liaisons in each department included in a market study to share the placement in range spreadsheets with all employees included in the market study for their review.  Each department is asked to review each employee’s placement in range carefully to ensure all employee specific level data has been included accurately and encouraged to report any inconsistencies or errors to Employee Compensation before giving approval to proceed. Upon receipt of approval from the department, the placement in range is sent to the department’s assigned Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Budget Analyst to secure funding. The departmental liaison is included in this email.

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    How are Departments Informed that Market Adjustments have been Approved?
    Communications are sent to (typically Human Resources) liaisons in each department included in a market study to relay that the department’s assigned Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Budget Analyst has secured funding for market adjustments included in a particular market study.  Departments are instructed not to communicate any expectations of market increases until after final approval has been given and communications have been sent to the department.   

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    How is an Employee’s Market Adjustment Entered into PeopleSoft? 
    Employee Compensation processes market adjustments in one of two ways, depending upon size:


    • large studies resulting in 50 or more market adjustments with the same effective date are processed using an Excel file in which Employee Records can upload into PeopleSoft
    • smaller studies, less than 50 market adjustments with the same effective date must be processed using Personnel Actions Forms (PAFs) prepared and submitted by the department

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    Why Don’t Some Employees Get Market Adjustments?
    As stated above, market studies are an evaluation tool used to determine if positions are being paid appropriately according to market observations. Not every position and/or employee will see an increase as not every position is under paid.  In some instances, positions are determined to be paid consistent within the market and/or employees are determined to be paid higher than his/her essentially identical experience would warrant. 

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    How are Employee’s Included in a Market Study Notified of the Results?
    The final communication sent to (typically Human Resources) liaisons in each department included in a market study includes an Employee Communication Template memo to which the department can modify specific to each employee for distribution. This employee communication includes information regarding the market study process and impact to the employee. Additionally, this employee communication provides information regarding the timeline and contact for asking any questions or reporting any concerns.  

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    What if there is an Error in my Experience Credited? 
    Departmental (typically Human Resources) liaisons and Directors are available for employees to consult regarding a market study and an employee’s placement within the range. If an employee feels an error in crediting his/her experience has occurred, he/she should discuss the concerns within the appropriate timeline with the indicated contact as relayed in the employee communication.  The Director and/or liaison will evaluate each concern/complaint thoroughly and will forward to Employee Compensation if appropriate. 

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    What is the Difference between a “Hiring Range” and a “Market Range”?
    The “hiring range” is ordinarily the minimum to the midpoint (typically the 6th or 7th year) of the market range. The market range is the full developed range as determined from market observations. The use of a hiring range for recruitment purposes allows for departments to value long-term Maricopa County employees more than recently hired staff. Departments are required to comply with the County's Funded Position Policy ensuring that applicants are extended a rate that is supported by the department's budget.

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    Are Temporary Positions Included in Market Studies?
    Temporary positions are included in the market study process for purposes of assigning the position to the appropriate MRT. As Temporary positions are not budgeted and are meant for short-term purposes, only regular and contract positions are included in the placement in range process. The base rate of temporary staff may be increased if the department desires and can meet the requirements for processing Temporary base pay increases consistently as Salary Advancements. 

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    Position Management Forms (PMF)


     

    When do PMFs need to be submitted?
    Anytime a new position is being created, a current position is being inactivated, or there is a change to a position attributes, a PMF form should be submitted.  The following position actions require a PMF:


    • Creating a new position
    • Inactivating an existing position
    • Transferring a position’s location, fund, dept ID, reporting category, function code
    • Changing PAS Codes
    • Changing FTE %
    • Changing in reports to position number, working title, position status, position type, or FLSA status
    • Changing any portion of a position’s accounting string
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    Where do departments submit PMFs?
    All PMFs should first be submitted to OMB - Employee Compensation. PMF’s will be forwarded to the necessary OMB staff for review.

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    Can the same PMF form be used for multiple position actions?
    Position changes for creating, inactivating, changing FTE %, and transfers may be submitted on the same PMF form if the position information required on the form is the same for each position.  The “Change Attributes” form provides space for 6 positions on the same form.  Multiple PMFs (i.e. separate PMFs) must be sent separately and with their own “Page 2 - All“ signature page.

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    How long does it take for a PMF to be processed?
    Generally, the PMF process takes about 7-10 business days.  Different position requests (creating, inactivating, transferring, etc.) require varying amounts of review, approval, and PeopleSoft entry time.  Some PMFs require only Employee Compensation or Budget approval whereas others require approval from both Employee Compensation and Budget.  As a result, some requests may be processed faster and some take longer.  In addition, incomplete or incorrect forms will delay the process.

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    Can a position’s market range title be changed using a PMF?
    A position’s market range title is not changed through the PMF process.  Market range title changes are made by inactivating the current position and creating a new position in the new market range title or as a result of a market study change.  If a position is created in one market range title and the department determines the need for a different position, a new position should be created.

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    Can anyone designated as a department Appointing Authority sign the PMF form?
    Only the department director, elected official, or chief deputy may sign the PMF form as the Appointing Authority.  Human Resource and/or Finance liaisons are not appropriate Appointing Authorities for PMFs.

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    Differential Pay


     

    Is a department required to pay employees differential pay?
    Pay differentials are a compensation tool that departments should utilize only when necessary to address an identifiable recruitment and retention need.  The use of differential pay is not required and must be fully funded by a department’s budget.  Use of any differential pay is at the discretion of the department director.

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    Where is the current pay schedule of differential pay located?
    A current premium pay schedule can be found on the EBC on Employee Compensation’s website.

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    How often is the pay differential pay schedule updated?
    The use of differential pay is primarily based on market practices.  Employee Compensation observes the market for rapid changes and conducts an annual market study and recommends changes to the Board of Supervisors as warranted.

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    Are exempt employees eligible for differential pay?
    With the exception of multi-lingual pay, employees who are exempt under the FLSA are not eligible to receive differential pay.

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    Are temporary and contract employees eligible for multi-lingual pay?
    Yes, both temporary and contract employees are eligible for multi-lingual pay at the discretion of the department director.  The department’s HR Liaison is responsible for coordinating the sign-up and testing process with Employee Compensation.  Departments must also conduct and maintain desk audits to ensure that an employee meets the minimum requirements to be eligible for multi-lingual differential pay.

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    Does an employee automatically receive multi-lingual pay for having multi-lingual capability?
    No, multi-lingual pay is not automatic and is not based solely on an employee’s multi-lingual capabilities. A department must justify the business need to pay a multi-lingual differential and conduct desk audits to ensure that employees meet the requirements to receive multi-lingual pay.

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    What is the difference between Associate and Journey level multi-lingual pay?
    In order to be eligible to receive Associate level multi-lingual pay, an employee must be employed in a position that requires the use of multi-lingual capabilities an average of at least 5% of the employee’s work time.  The employee must, at a minimum, be capable of accurate, oral translation.  A written test is not required; however, departments must conduct and maintain desk audits to ensure that an employee meets the minimum requirements to be eligible for the multi-lingual differential pay. 


    In order to be eligible to receive Journey level multi-lingual pay, an employee must be employed in a position that requires the use of multi-lingual capabilities an average of at least 25% of the employee’s work time.   The employee must be capable of accurate, oral and written translation that is demonstrated by the employee’s ability to pass a written examination which is administered by Employee Compensation.  Departments must also conduct and maintain desk audits to ensure that an employee meets the minimum requirements to be eligible for multi-lingual differential pay.
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    How often are the multi-lingual tests administered and how does an employee sign-up for the test?
    A Spanish multi-lingual written test is administered on a quarterly basis by Employee Compensation. More information on the testing process including the annual schedule can be found on Employee Compensation's website.


    The use of differential pay is at the discretion of the department director and the department’s HR Liaison is responsible for coordinating the sign-up and testing process with Employee Compensation.
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    Is there a template form that should be used to conduct desk audits of the employee’s use of a multi-lingual skills?
    Multilingual forms can be found on Employee Compensation's website.

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    Promotions

     

    How is an employee's promotional pay rate determined?
    When an employee is promoted into a higher level market range title, the employee’s promotional pay rate is determined by completing a placement in range using the promoted market range. Promotional pay rates are based on direct experience and internal equity within the department and across the County. Each employee’s experience, both internal and external to the County is considered, as follows:

    • All direct County experience – experience performing essentially identical job tasks as a Maricopa County employee in the promotion position – is credited at 100% without a cap limitation up to the maximum of the Board approved range.
    • Prior direct experience – experience performing essentially identical job tasks working outside of Maricopa County as the promotion position – is credited at a rate consistent with market observations, typically 50%, and capped at the midpoint year of the developed salary range.

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    How is an employee’s promotional pay rate determined if the employee is already paid at or above their placement in range in the new promoted market range title?
    When an employee is promoted, their promotional pay rate is determined using the new market range based on direct experience and internal equity within the department and across the County. If the employee is already paid at or above their placement in range in the promoted market range, Employee Compensation and the Department HR Liaison will review the employee’s new responsibilities and internal equity within the department and across the County to determine if a promotional pay increase is warranted. The amount of any promotional pay increase varies based on this review. General practice is to recognize an employee's higher level responsibilities in their new position by giving employees a 2.5% to 5% promotional pay increase. Larger amounts may be approved on an exception basis for higher level positions within the County.

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    If an employee is promoted, when will they be eligible for a merit increase?
    Employees are eligible for a pay for performance/merit increase in accordance with the current Performance-Based Salary Advancement Plan approved by the Board of Supervisors.
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