Reward and Recognition Scheme

The Reward and Recognition Scheme has two elements:

  • an annual gathered field review, the Awards for Excellence Scheme, at departmental level, awarding incremental payments
  • Recognition Scheme, under which smaller, more timely awards (£200 before tax in all cases) can be made at departmental level to recognise one-off, outstanding contributions at any time of the year

Launch of the Awards for Excellence exercise 2024

The Awards for Excellence exercise for 2024 will take place in departments and faculties in Trinity Term 2024 with payments made from August 2024. Departments can now begin to make their initial arrangements, such as setting up their Awards for Excellence review panels and communicating with managers.

The period under review should be the 12 months up to the point the Department launches the scheme. (Departments are given discretion to extend beyond a 12 month period if necessary to allow for gaps in running the scheme)




Staff in grades 1-10 with more than six months’ service (with the exception of those listed below) are eligible to be nominated for an award. 

Departments and faculties should give equal consideration to all staff in grades 1-10, regardless of the department’s financial position or the available funding for externally-funded researchers. 

Part-time, fixed-term, and variable hours employees and those due to leave or retire should be reviewed on the same basis as all other staff. 

Those who have been absent for part of the year due to sickness or for family-related reasons should also be reviewed. Departments should seek advice from their HR Business Partner as necessary. Departments are reminded to be mindful of all protected characteristics of staff when running the Scheme. 

Heads of department and Faculty Board Chairs should consider whether departmental administrators (grades 1-10) should be nominated and, if so, how this will be considered by the departmental panel.  They are encouraged to discuss this with their HR Business Partner. In reaching a decision, feedback from the Divisional Registrar and other relevant officers eg in finance and personnel, should be considered. 

The following are not eligible for awards under the Reward and Recognition scheme: 

  • those holding posts (such as EC Marie Curie fellowships) for which the funder’s terms specify the individual’s rate of pay outside the University’s salary scales
  • those with less than six months’ service with the University at the time of assessment
  • those whose TUPE arrangements preclude inclusion or impose alternative ‘merit’ arrangements
  • those holding clinical consultant contracts who are eligible for NHS merit awards
  • those on grades 9 and 10 who have been awarded the title of Professor and are therefore eligible for the Professorial Merit Pay scheme

A report is available from the University's HR system to assist departments in identifying staff who may be eligible for consideration under the Scheme.  

Awards for Excellence

The Awards for Excellence Scheme is designed to reward those employees who have performed well in all the key areas of their jobs, and have consistently demonstrated exceptional performance, significantly above that which might reasonably have been expected for their grade.

This includes values/behaviour frameworks. If departments have these frameworks, they can award recurrent or non-recurrent increments to reward staff’s exceptional demonstration of these values through examples of their behaviours. The frameworks need to be communicated on launching the scheme so managers and individuals can provide examples of work against the values and behaviours being recognised.

All eligible staff should be reviewed annually in the gathered field exercise by a panel at departmental level. 

For the sake of parity, transparency and ease of monitoring, there is no provision for making performance-related incremental payments to staff outside the annual exercise

The University’s pay structure provides all staff in grades 1-10 with automatic incremental progression (up to the scale bar), over and above cost of living rises, to reward and recognise the acquisition of the skills, knowledge, and expertise that comes with experience in a post. The Awards for Excellence Scheme recognises contributions over and above this and rewards employees who: 

  • have performed well in all the key areas of their jobs

  • have consistently demonstrated exceptional performance, significantly above that which might reasonably have been expected for their grade

  • have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to a value or behaviour framework, through examples provided against the expected behaviours.

A range of examples of ‘exceptional contributions’ is provided in the ‘criteria for awards for awards for excellence’ document and behaviours in the ‘recognising values/behaviours form’ document.


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In 2023 the Awards for Excellence assessment process will take place between April and August, with payments effective from1 August.

Arrangements for payment must be undertaken from April until the payroll deadline in August and the payments will be effective from 1 August. Any exceptional circumstances which may warrant later payment arrangements should be referred to the Head of Reward ahead of processing. 

There are two possible types of award which can be given under the Awards for Excellence Scheme: 

Recurrent awards consist of pensionable advancement to the next point on the incremental scale; and 

Non-recurrent awards take the form of a non-pensionable lump sum to the value of one increment (typically 3% of salary). 

It is expected that in the majority of cases non-recurrent awards will be made. 

If using recurrent awards this will be primarily for those who are at or above the scale bar for their grade and whose exceptional performance is expected to continue. Recurrent awards cannot be made to those at the top of the discretionary scale for their grade. An annotated salary structure is provided on this page to demonstrate the use of recurrent and non-recurrent awards. 

Only non-recurrent awards can be made to those on E grades or the Apprentice grade as these grades have set routes of salary progression. 

Awards should be based on the individual’s salary scale point at 31 December of the calendar year under review. 

Awards for part-time staff should be prorated. 

Awards for Excellence are limited to one increment (c.3% of salary) in all cases. 

The Awards for Excellence Scheme does not provide for ‘team awards’, but the work of teams can be rewarded under the Recognition Scheme. 

Nominations for awards will be made primarily by line managers, this may be at the level of team leader/head of section, and should be defined as appropriate by the department. 

Line managers should conduct an initial review of all the staff they manage against the criteria for awards in order to help ensure a broad range of nominations across all grades and types of work. If they consider that a member of their team has met all of the criteria, they should outline the case and collate any supporting evidence in a nomination form. The review panel will require robust evidence on which to base their decisions. The nomination form must contain examples relating to the University’s criteria and the review panel must reach its decision solely on this evidence. Managers should inform their staff if they have been nominated. 

Managers should bear in mind that only a small proportion of staff (circa 10%) will receive awards. They should avoid creating high expectations by nominating more team members than might reasonably be expected to receive an award. 

Individuals who believe they deserve an award should discuss this in the first instance with their manager. If the individual and the manager cannot reach agreement about submitting a nomination, the individual may nominate themselves using a self-nomination form. Self-nomination forms contain a mandatory field for the manager’s comments and the individual should allow reasonable time for their manager to comment before the submission deadline. 

The individual applicant will be responsible for gathering evidence to support their case. The manager should state whether they believe the case provides a fair, accurate and complete reflection of the employee’s work, responsibility and contribution, giving supporting evidence wherever possible, before submitting it to the review panel. 

Departments are encouraged to use small decision-making panels (eg three members of the management board, to include the Head of Department or their nominee, with at least one member of each sex) to minimise the investment of time among senior staff. It is not expected that the panel will include representatives of every area of the department. Panel members will make decisions on the basis of the evidence in nomination forms and use their discretion on how to assess fairly any ‘contested’ self-nominations. Administrators will service the panels, provide advice and seek support from HRBP’s in complex cases. Brief records should be kept of the grounds for decisions about individual cases. 

Panels have the discretion to award a recognition payment (£200) as an alternative award when a nomination for an Award for Excellence has been made, but a recognition payment is considered to be more appropriate. The recognition payment should not, however, be used in consolation for any other type of award. 

The panel should inform all those who were nominated whether or not they have been given an award. This is most likely to be via the line manager. 

Individuals who are not given an award should discuss any concerns with their line manager in the first instance. If they remain dissatisfied, it may be deemed appropriate for them to receive individual feedback from a member of the departmental panel. 

In the unlikely event that individuals’ concerns cannot be allayed within their department, there will be provision to appeal decisions either: on the grounds of a significant procedural irregularity, or where an individual can show reasonable grounds for believing that the department’s decision was made because of a protected characteristic or amounted to victimisation. There will be no provision for reconsideration of the evidence for and against awards to individuals ie individuals will not be able to appeal simply because they disagree with the decision reached by the panel. 

Appeals should clearly state the grounds for the appeal and any supporting evidence and should be sent to by 1 October of the year in which the decision has been taken. No appeals will be accepted after that date. The Head of Reward will assess each appeal to ensure it meets the criteria outlined above and convene a panel consisting of a member of University HR and a member of the relevant divisional office to consider any appeal that does meet the criteria. 

The department will be invited to respond in writing to the appeal and the panel will make its decision on the basis of the written appeal and the department’s written response. The decision resulting from this appeal process will be final; there will be no further right of appeal. 

Recognition scheme

The purpose of the Recognition Scheme is to reward one-off contributions or examples of high performance by individuals or teams at any time (eg the delivery of an important departmental initiative, or an idea that leads to a saving or service improvement). 

Nominations for the recognition scheme should be made by managers and consist of a brief case to the head of department, whose decision is final. A sample nomination form is provided in the documents section of this web page. 

The recognition award is £200 (to ensure that all recipients receive at least £100 after tax) in all cases. Since the sum awarded is relatively small, the value should be augmented by meaningful acknowledgement of the individual’s contribution, such as a letter of thanks from the head of department. 

There are some points to note in the scheme:

  • Departments and faculties are asked to budget for circa 8% of staff to receive recognition awards.
  • No one is to receive a Recognition Award more than once every six months (other forms of recognition, such as the thank you board, may be used where further instances of exceptional performance merit recognition)
  • Team awards are permitted, but no group larger than a team should receive them as they are meant to reward exceptional performance. Therefore, awards should not be made to entire sections / sub-faculties etc
  • Every recognition award should be accompanied by a letter from the HoD or senior nominator specifically referring to why the Award has been given and thanking the individual for their own precise contribution
  • Although all staff in grades 1-10 are eligible, these awards are particularly suitable for awarding support staff, for whom their own personal contribution to departmental objectives may be less visible
  • Heads of department and Faculty Board Chairs should specifically consider whether Heads of Administration and Finance (grades 1-10) should receive an award. In reaching a decision the Head of Department may wish to seek feedback from the Divisional Registrar.
  • In previous exercises it’s been noted that typically BME staff have been under-represented. In using the Recognition Scheme managers should be mindful of this and need for sensitivity towards, for example, furloughed staff and staff whose performance has been constrained by their personal circumstances, and to consider performance proportionally/in relation to circumstances.
  • Departments that wish to make several awards at one time, under the recognition scheme, should complete the recognition scheme spreadsheet for payroll. It should be sent to the Payroll team by an authorised signatory for payroll.

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To promote consistency across and within divisions the Personnel Committee has recommended an annual limit on the number of awards made. Departments are asked to spend as near as possible to 0.35% of their paybill (for staff in grades 1-10) on awards under the Reward and Recognition Scheme (ie Awards for Excellence and Recognition Awards) during the financial year. This amount should (provided that awards are spread equitably across grades) fund Awards for Excellence for up to 10% of eligible staff and Recognition Awards for up to 15% of staff. 

If a member of externally funded staff meets the criteria for an award, the department should consider whether the costs are eligible on the grant and whether the grant provides sufficient funds to meet the cost. Otherwise, the department should allocate funds from its own budget. 

In line with other one-off payments, payments awarded under the Recognition Scheme and non-recurrent awards under the Awards for Excellence Scheme are paid directly through the Payroll module following receipt of a notification form by the payroll team. The form is available in the documents section of the scheme landing page. 

Recurrent awards given under the Awards for Excellence Scheme should be input to PeopleXD by departments. Departments should update the employee’s grade point on the appointment. Please see the Scenario Fact sheet Reward and Recognition Scheme for guidance. 

Awards for Excellence can only be made as part of the annual gathered field exercise and must be paid in the August payroll. 

Recognition Awards can be made at any time of year. 

Departments should notify staff formally of the local arrangements for their Reward and Recognition Scheme. Communication methods should ensure a broad range of nominations are received across all grades and types of work. In addition to a departmental-wide communication launching the Scheme departments could target particular managers and teams from which nominations have not previously been received, or where they believe exceptional performance has been demonstrated during the period under review. Departments might want to consider using email, departmental newsletters, presentations at regular departmental meetings, and posters in communal areas to notify managers and staff about the Scheme. 

Departmental discretion can be exercised as to how and whether the names of those in receipt of awards is made known (with the individual’s approval), but need to ensure the process is transparent. 

Departments should record both successful and unsuccessful nominations and awards for the Awards for Excellence and Recognition Scheme payments in order to enable comprehensive local and central reporting and analysis, and to enable Personnel Committee to be kept informed of the pattern of payments under the scheme. A facility is provided in the University's HR system to do this, please see the Scenario Fact Sheet Reward and Recognition Scheme

To promote transparency, departments are asked to publish summary data internally. A report is available from the University's HR system to facilitate this (PERDEP47 R and R Scheme Monitoring). In the event that a disproportionate spread of awards is identified, the departmental administrator should discuss the issue with their HR Business Partner. 

Personnel Committee receives an annual report on payments made under the Reward and Recognition Scheme, which provides an analysis by legal sex, disability, and ethnicity. Owing to the limits of the data on ethnicity, where there is a large proportion of staff classified as “not known”, it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions about the distribution of payments by ethnicity. However, former analysis did reveal that there was an under-representation, in some areas, of payments to staff with protected characteristics. 

Departments play an important part in ensuring that nominations for a broad range of staff are received under the Reward and Recognition Scheme.


The FAQs should be used in conjunction with the guidance on the Reward and Recognition Scheme.

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Which grades are included in the scheme? 


The following table lists all grades/groups included in the scheme and any caveats relating to eligibility: 



Grades 1-10 

Staff require more than 6 months service 

E grades 

Staff are not included if they are eligible for any other type of merit award (eg NHS awards). 
As doctors in training staff employed on E grades have a set route of salary progression. They are therefore eligible only for non-recurrent awards through the Awards for Excellence Scheme. They are eligible for Recognition Awards. 


Eligible only for non-recurrent awards through the Awards for Excellence Scheme. They are eligible for Recognition Awards. 


Does the scheme include Departmental Lecturers, Language Lecturers and Research Fellows? 

Yes, the scheme includes all staff on grades 1-10, including academics and researchers employed on these grades. 

Can a member of staff be rewarded in successive years? 

Yes, but this would be most likely for non-recurrent awards. Where a recurrent increment has been awarded the review panel will need to ensure they are not rewarding the same evidence of exceptional performance twice or that regrading would not be more appropriate ie for those whose role has grown such that they are required to work ‘above’ their grade. 

Can a member of staff be rewarded sequentially in the following year? 

Yes, but where a recurrent increment has been awarded the review panel will need to ensure they are not rewarding the same evidence of exceptional performance twice. 

Can someone who was awarded through the recognition scheme also be awarded in the award for excellence scheme in the same period? 

Yes, this is likely to be most relevant where a member of staff has received a recognition award as part of a team and an individual award for excellence. In all cases the review panel will need to be convinced that the same evidence of exceptional performance is not being rewarded twice. 

From which point is the consideration given for the employee to have 6 months’ service? 

They need to have been employed by the University since 1 July in the calendar year that is being reviewed. 

How do I take account of someone who is absent several times or for a large chunk of the year through illness?  How can I be fair to them and those who are still at work? 

Those who have been absent for part of the year due to sickness or for family related reasons should be included in the review, with due allowance made for the period of absence. 

What happens to employees who qualify for the nominations, but will be leaving in due course or will have left already before the payment is made? 

Any member of eligible staff in employment at the time of the review should be considered. 

Are agency workers eligible to be considered under the Reward and Recognition Scheme? 

Yes, agency workers who have been engaged for six months or longer are eligible for inclusion in the scheme. It needs to be clear that we are only conducting performance assessments for them in order to determine whether they might qualify for an additional payment under the scheme in accordance with our obligations under the Agency Workers Regulations. In terms of an award itself they are eligible for both lump sum payments (ie £200 or a non-recurrent payment of 3%) and also recurrent awards which would mean they would see an increase in their hourly rate. 

Is 0.35% intended to cover both schemes? 

Yes. 0.35% should cover Awards for Excellence for approximately 10% of staff and recognition for up to 15% of staff. 

Is 0.35% of the total pay bill, or the pay bill for eligible staff? 

0.35% of the pay bill for eligible staff. 

Should on-costs be included when working out 0.35% of the pay bill? 

Salary calculations should all be made on the same basis. It is advisable to include on-costs when working out 0.35% of the paybill and on-costs should therefore be included when working out the cost of awards granted. 

When in the year do you count the 0.35% of the pay bill? 

There isn’t a definitive answer as to how you should arrive at your annual pay bill. Try to use a date which is representative of your pay bill and which includes all increments for the calendar year under review. 

Are recurrent awards in included in future 0.35% of the pay bill? 

No, recurrent awards are included in the 0.35% of the pay bill for the year in which they are awarded but not in the 0.35% of subsequent years. 

Are all of the awards taxable? 


Who should be on a panel? 

Departments are encouraged to keep panels small to minimise complexity and bureaucracy. The panel will typically comprise three people, including the Head of Department or their nominated representative. As far as possible members of the panel should not be eligible under the scheme or directly line manage large proportions of the eligible staff. 

Should the Departmental Administrator be a member of the panel? 

No, Departmental Administrators should take an advisory role. 

Can the panel be made up of cross-departmental members ie members from another department? 

Yes, this may assist with objectivity. It is advisable that any member of the panel drawn from another department is familiar with the type of work that is carried out in the department for which they are a panel member. 

Is it necessary to convene a panel for the £200 awards? 

No, and it is recommended that departments avoid introducing unnecessary bureaucracy to what is intended to be a light-touch scheme, but departments may do so if they wish.

Should the role holder see the manager’s comments? 

Yes, transparency is important. 

Can an individual self nominate without line managers comments?  

No, manager’s comments must be included on a self nomination form. 

Can we introduce a quality screening process for applications before they go to the panel? 

Yes, it may be helpful to introduce a quality screening process in order that managers can be advised where applications fall short of requirements. The introduction of such a process should not, however, prevent managers or staff making nominations to the panel. 

When would a nomination for an Award for Excellence not be appropriate?  

The Awards for Excellence Scheme should not be used to reward the working of long hours. If staff are regularly required to work long hours, the size of their role should be reviewed. For those whose role has grown such that they are required to work ‘above’ their grade, a regrading application, a temporary acting up allowance or a restructuring of the role should be considered. For support staff only, overtime payments or a responsibility allowance might be appropriate. Please contact your HRBP for advice. 

Could we send checklists to managers to ensure that everyone has been considered? 

Yes, this seems like a sensible approach but it is not compulsory. 

Can I nominate someone who I do not manage or someone from another department? 

No, nominations need to be made by line managers (or self nominated). You should inform the individual’s line manager of the reasons why you think they should be nominated. 

How do we manage the expectations of staff? 

It’s important to be transparent in managing the expectations of staff and clearly explain the parameters of the scheme: that the scheme is intended to reward exceptional performance; and only 10% of staff will receive an award. 

Do we need to discuss with each individual who hasn’t been put forward why this is the case? 

No, but you will need to determine a suitable approach for your department so that staff feel recognised eg staff are generally thanked for their contributions. It may be necessary for line managers to have individual discussions with staff as to why they haven’t been put forward.  

Can we vary the amount from one increment? 

No, whether the award is recurrent or non-recurrent it needs to equate to one increment only (pro rated for part-time staff) 

When will a non-recurrent award be pro-rated? 

A payment will be paid on a pro-rata basis if the individual is, or has been part-time. If the member of staff has had a period of unpaid leave during the year, please seek advice from your HR Business Partner in University HR before processing the payment. 

Is it possible to award a £200 recognition payment under the Awards for Excellence Scheme? 

Yes, panels now have the discretion to award a recognition payment (£200) as an alternative award  when a nomination for an Award for Excellence has been made, but a recognition payment is considered to be more appropriate. The recognition payment should not, however, be used in consolation for any other type of award. 

Which payroll cut-off date should be used for entering / submitting awards to PeopleXD? 

Payments should be received in August payroll so the August payroll cut-off date should be used. Any exceptional circumstances which may warrant later payment arrangements should be referred to the Head of Reward  ahead of processing. Payments will continue to take effect from 1 August. 

If awarded a recurrent increment will staff receive any backdated pay? 

No, staff will not receive a lump sum and incremental advancement. If the payment is processed after the August payroll the member of staff will receive back pay to August. 

If the recurrent incremental award is given, is the individual still entitled for the automatic progression in August / October? 

Yes, the Award for Excellence is in addition to automatic incremental progression. 

Can a separate payment for retention still be made? 

Yes, but departments should be mindful of the policy that not more than four increments over and above standard incremental progression should be given in any calendar year eg if a member of staff receives a recurrent Award for Excellence they could only receive up to three increments for retention. 

Is it possible to move the timetables of the entire scheme? 

No, the review should take place according to the timetable laid out on the launch page, and review performance for the previous calendar year. 

What will happen if Payroll query any of the payments which have been awarded by the Review Panel? 

Payroll may raise procedural questions with the Reward team before processing payments. If a payment is to be put on hold the departmental administrator will be notified by the Reward team and provided with a reason for the hold. The Reward team will make every effort to resolve queries before the payroll deadline, but where this is not possible the departmental administrator will be notified in order that they can communicate with the member of staff concerned. 

If departments have reason to believe a procedural question may be raised about a payment  they are advised to seek advice from the Reward team or their HRBP before staff are notified of awards. 

Why is the £200 Recognition scheme award not pensionable? 

Lump sum payments are non-pensionable. Under pension rules, in order to be pensionable, a payment needs to be on-going and expected to continue for at least three years. 

Can the Head of Department delegate responsibility for reviewing the nominations for the Recognition Scheme? 

Yes, to reduce any administrative burden they could delegate the reviewing of nominations to an appropriate and specified individual and be advised on whether awards should be given. The Head of Department should maintain sign off for such awards. 

Can a timescale be imposed for the Recognition Scheme, so that it is not constantly ongoing through the year? eg nominations to be received quarterly 

Yes, choose an approach which most suits your department, but bear in mind that the awards are designed to reward effort promptly, so make sure there is not too long a gap between deadlines.