Effort Reporting System Requirements

Tufts University is required by federal regulations to have a salary distribution system that allows for periodic review and confirmation of the reasonableness of salary charges to sponsored awards. At Tufts, quarterly effort reporting is used to verify that salaries and wages charged to a sponsored award for a specific period accurately reflect the time devoted to the project.

As a general rule, exempt employees should understand how their salary charges are distributed and verify his/her salary distribution reflects the actual effort devoted to the projects being charged

Effort Reporting System Overview and Responsibilities

Time and Effort Recording

  • Exempt and professional staff time is charged on the basis of information on the most recent Personnel Action Form (PAF). This sets up the initial distribution of effort which is certified on the Quarterly Effort
    Report or modified as necessary to present an accurate record of how the time charged is spent.
    • Prospective modifications can be made via a change PAF or e-PAF.
    • Retroactive changes for salary not yet reflected on a QER can be
      made via submission of a change PAF to SPA.
    • Changes may also be made to the employee’s distribution via the
      effort certification process described below.
  • Non-exempt personnel report their effort on a weekly basis using the University’s On-Line Time Entry System.

Effort Certification System and Procedures

Tufts University uses an after-the-fact activity records approach to certify the effort of all salaries and wages paid to all faculty, professional and non-professional employees.

Exempt employees (faculty and professionals) and graduate student employees who are charged to grants, in part or in full, certify their effort quarterly via the Quarterly Effort Reports (QER) (Sample). These reports are produced for the following quarters and must be returned to Sponsored Programs Accounting (SPA) ten business days after receipt. If additional time is required due to extenuating circumstances, an extension should be requested from the SPA office on your campus. Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

QER Production Schedule

1st Quarter: July 1 – September 30 QERs sent in early October
2nd Quarter: October 1 – December 31 QERs sent in early January
3rd Quarter: January 1 – March 31 QERs sent in early April
Mock QERs: April 1 – May 31 only Mock QERs sent in early June
4th Quarter: April 1 – June 30 QERs sent in early July


Quarterly Effort Reports (QERs) for each covered employee (paid entirely or partially from a grant) within a department are sent to the department chairperson (or their designee). He/she is responsible for ensuring the reports are reviewed, changed if necessary, certified and returned on the required due date.

Note: Signed mock QERs only have to be returned if changes/adjustments are required. 

It is strongly encouraged that a PI signs for himself/herself and signs the QERs of individuals who worked on his/her grant. Another person may sign only if that individual certifying the report has suitable means for verifying the work performed and only if the individual completes and attaches a signed Suitable Means Checklist to the QER.

  • Non-covered Faculty/Exempt Personnel perform functions at the University that are not subject to certification. A report is produced for personnel whose efforts are charged 100% to DeptIDs (hard money accounts). These reports should only be returned to SPA in the event a labor adjustment is required.  Please note that each report returned should be signed and dated.
  • Effort for non-exempt employees, who are paid weekly, is certified when the Time Entry is submitted in the On-Line Time Entry System. Effort is certified on a pay period basis by the responsible person with
    suitable means for verifying the work performed.  All hours entered should correctly reflect all the time worked for the period noted and the salary distributions should represent an accurate accounting of effort expended.

Effort Distribution Adjustments

For individuals paid entirely or partially from sponsored awards, all changes must be certified by the PI, employee or other individual who has suitable means to verify the effort expended or work performed.

Retroactive Distribution Changes/Adjustments for Exempt Employees (faculty, professionals, & graduate students paid via the semi-monthly payroll):

1)    If the effort has not yet been reported on a QER (see the schedule above), a change PAF should be submitted to the HR Service Center.  If retroactive distribution adjustments to paid salary are required, Sponsored
Programs Accounting (SPA) should receive a copy of the change PAF.

2)    If changes are required to the effort on a generated QER, adjustments should be annotated on the QER at the time of certification and returned to SPA by the due date specified on the QER Memo.

3)    In the event that changes are required to effort certified on a QER in a prior quarter, a memo must be attached to the annotated QER that answers the following questions:

  • Why it was not charged to the correct project originally?
  • How does the expense directly benefit the receiving award?
    • Is the cost allowable, reasonable, allocable and consistently
  • Why is the cost transfer over 90 days?
  • What corrective action has been taken to correct systematic

Retroactive Distribution Adjustments for Non-Exempt Employees (paid via the weekly payroll):

1)    Since weekly salary is certified at the time it is entered into the On-Line Time Entry System, a recertification request must be submitted to SPA when a distribution adjustment impacting a sponsored award is required.

Note: As with all expense transfers impacting sponsored awards, responses to the questions noted in item 3 above must be addressed in the recertification memo.

SPA will enter the requested adjustment(s) between sponsored awards or between sponsored awards and non-sponsored funds in the PeopleSoft Labor Distribution System when all necessary documentation has been provided. 

Contact Personnel

Sponsored Programs Accounting (SPA) is responsible for administering the University’s Effort Reporting System.  Questions about the Effort Reporting System and procedures should be addressed to the SPA office on your campus.

Things to Remember

Check mark button For exempt employees, departments should submit Personnel Action Forms (PAFs) in a timely manner to ensure that labor distribution in the system is up to date. This will reduce the number of adjustments that need to be made on the QERs.
Check mark button Non-exempt employees report their effort on a weekly basis using the University’s On-Line Time Entry System. No QERs are produced for these employees.
Check mark button Recertifications should occur only under very rare circumstances; recertifications that involve moving salary onto a sponsored award are closely scrutinized by SPA prior to being approved due to their high audit risk.