The University of California’s new minimum wage policy takes effect today (Oct. 1) with thousands of direct and contract employees slated to receive the first of three years of raises that will increase their earnings to at least $15 an hour by 2017.

Under UC’s Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan, all employees hired to work 20 hours or more a week will be paid an hourly wage of at least $13 starting Oct. 1. That minimum will rise to $14 an hour on Oct. 1, 2016, and to $15 on Oct. 1, 2017.

Effective today, all new and renewing contracts with the university will require that workers be paid at least the UC minimum wage.

UC is the first public university in the country to voluntarily set a $15 minimum wage. The new rate will be higher than California’s minimum wage, which currently is $9 an hour and set to increase to $10 an hour on Jan. 1, 2016.

UC President Janet Napolitano announced the UC Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan in July to support employees and their families, and to ensure that workers being paid through a UC contract are likewise fairly compensated.

“Supporting the employees — and their families — who help make UC a leading institution is an important part of our values as a public university,” she said.

The new minimum wage is being implemented over three years to give campuses time to plan and budget for the cost increase. The bulk of the cost will be funded by non-core funds, such as sales from self-supporting programs like bookstores and food services. These are separate from tuition and fees, state resources and other funds that support UC’s core instructional programs.

As part of the new policy, UC will enhance its oversight of contractors and subcontractors for wages and working conditions. This includes a telephone hotline and online reporting system, both already in place, that contract workers can use to report complaints and issues directly to the Office of the President.

It also will include annual and interim audits of contractors to ensure they pay employees at least UC’s minimum wage, and enhanced oversight to make sure they comply with all local, state and federal laws as well as UC policies. Annual audits will be funded by the contractors, and implemented as new contracts are established and existing ones are renewed.