For Supervisors of Research Employees
This site offers a guide to the appointment and employment of research employees. You will also find many related resources on HR's site for Managers and Supervisors.
The Research Personnel Initiative (RPI) team provides support to PIs and departments: assistance with form completion, provision of tools and calculators, advice for unusual situations and guidance on compliance requirements.
Acronyms, terms and definitions used in these pages
- Grant-funded research employees = individuals receiving funds from grants (as opposed to Graduate Research Assistants who receive scholarship income)
- Conducting Research = individuals paid from a research grant that is administered by SFU, and are primarily conducting research activities
- Providing Research Support = individuals paid from a research grant that is administered by SFU, and are primarily supporting research activities
- RPI = Research Personnel Initiative
- PAF = Payroll Appointment Form
- ESA = BC’s Employment Standards Act
- CPP = Canada Pension Plan
- EI = Employment Insurance
- WCB = Workers Compensation Board premium
- EHT = Employers Health Tax (replaced MSP in 2019)
- Supervisor = Principal Investigator or the individual responsible for hiring and directing the work of the RA
- Scholarship income = paid to graduate student research assistants, where the graduate student is working as a research assistant on work that is very closely related to his/her thesis research and is required for completion of the Master's or Doctoral degree for which he/she is enrolled. No payroll source deductions will be taken, WorkSafeBC coverage is not provided and the income will be recorded as scholarship income on a T4A slip. If the research being performed is unrelated to person’s graduate program and the primary beneficiary of the work is the University, the work is considered to be employment income and should be coded as Research Assistant /employment income (source: Payroll’s Guide for the Completion of Payroll Appointment Form).
Eligibility, recruitment and selection
Grant-funded individuals who conduct research activities are eligible for SFU employment. These individuals may be conducting research or supporting research; review the guidelines for determining research vs research support.
Those receiving scholarship income are not employees and are not eligible for employment status.
Be sure to also check for eligibility to work in Canada on the Immigration Services site.
Recruitment and selection
Recognizing that research employees are recruited and selected in a variety of ways to allow for flexibility and nimbleness, SFU offers many resources to help Supervisors apply best practice and compliant standards in their efforts to find and hire candidates for employment:
- Planning timeline tool
- Tips for attracting top candidates
- Recruitment FAQ
- Initial screening call / interview questions / interview template / checking references
- The core competencies that help us succeed as individuals and as an organization
Pay, benefits, vacation, overtime and holidays
Rate of Pay
Employees must be paid at least BC’s minimum wage, although the Supervisor may choose a higher rate of pay if desired and allowable within the grant parameters.
Cost of Benefits
The Supervisor’s grant is responsible for all costs including statutory benefits: Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Employment Insurance (EI), Workers’ Compensation (WCB) and the Employer Health Tax (EHT).
Supervisors may offer extended health and dental benefits (discretionary) if discretionary benefits are an allowable expense by the granting agency (employer portion is 50%, RA pays 50%). Note that Tri-Council grants generally do not allow for coverage of discretionary benefits.
BC's ESA requires the provision of vacation time and/or pay. The amount you can offer is flexible but it must meet the BC ESA minimum.
Hourly employees must receive a minimum of 4% pay in lieu of vacation time. There is no requirement for employees to take vacation time and any time taken would be unpaid. This option for pay in lieu of vacation time is available for salaried employees whose appointment is 4 months or less.
Salaried employees must receive a minimum of 2 weeks’ vacation per year (pro-rated for appointments of <1 year):
- Supervisors must track employee vacation time taken. If any vacation time is unused at the end of an appointment, it will be paid out to the employee, from the granting source.
- Supervisors should ensure all employees request vacation time in writing.
- An in-house system may be available for time recording (ask your Department Manager or Financial Assistant); or use the time recording tool created by RPI.
- A calculator is available to help determine vacation time for employment durations of less than one year, and any required vacation payouts.
Any hours worked over 8 in one day or 40 in one week are subject to overtime rates.
Overtime must be pre-approved in writing by the Supervisor.
When appointing, consideration must be given to the total number of hours an individual is working in all positions they hold at SFU. Total number of hours cannot exceed 8 hours in one day or 80 hours bi-weekly; at that point overtime will apply.
statutory and general holidays
Employees who have been employed for 30 days and have worked for 15 of the past 30 days qualify to be paid for federal and provincial statutory holidays, and in some cases, for general holidays.
Making an Offer of Employment
BC's ESA requires a signed Offer of Employment before work can begin.
While the PI or Supervisor (or department representative) may have conversations with prospective employees about the potential role, the RPI team creates Offers of Employment, to ensure compliance and record keeping.
Note that verbal conversations may be considered legally binding and have unintended consequences to both parties. Be sure to use general language in these conversations, so as not to commit to any terms or conditions before a written document is created in alignment with university standards.
A PI/ Supervisor or department representative captures the terms agreed to with the prospective employee using a Payroll Appointment Form (PAF), including:
- duties to be performed
- start and end date
- pay rate
- number of weeks of vacation or % vacation pay
- any other terms and conditions agreed to by the Supervisor and RA
The PAF is submitted to RPI (via Financial Reporting or Research Accounting).
An Offer of Employment is created and emailed to the prospective employee via DocuSign (with a copy to the Department and PI), asking them to sign and return the offer and a confidentiality agreement to RPI.
Employee information is entered into myINFO.
Departments and Supervisors will be copied when RAs receive their Offer of Employment, however the following query may be used to determine the status of RA appointments in myINFO: SFUDA_RA_ADMINISTER_EES.
Onboarding, training, and orientation is the Supervisor’s responsibility.
RPI maintains new employee files.
Employee orientation, supervision and employee files
The Supervisor’s role includes providing an orientation for new employees, supervision of the work being done and tracking time worked and time off.
A new employee orientation module specific to RAs is available in Canvas. A link will be provided to RAs in their employment confirmation package - Supervisors may wish to familiarize themselves with the content. A learning module is also available to help Supervisors conduct effective new employee onboarding.
BC's Employment Standards Act governs this employee group. As such, Supervisors should familiarize themselves with its standards for payment, compensation and working conditions for employees.
The RPI team provides support to research employees and Supervisors; and maintains the employee files for this group.
Termination and resignation
Employees and Supervisors will receive a notice from RPI that the appointment end date is approaching. The Supervisor will have the option of extending the appointment or allowing it to end.
Supervisors should request written notice if an employee requests to resign or end their appointment early.
Written notice is required when a Supervisor ends an appointment prior to the end date in the Offer of Employment; and the RA must be provided either a notice period or a payout for the amount of the notice period.
Appointments may be terminated for cause without notice; however, documentation and oversight are required – contact your Department Manager or firstname.lastname@example.org before proceeding with a termination for cause.
See Concluding for more information.
Overview of the process for initiating, extending, ending or updating an appointment
Complete a Payroll appointment form (PAF)
- How to complete the PAF (pdf)
- Glossary of request types/ action checkboxes on PAF (pdf)
- Glossary of employment types on the PAF (pdf)
- Use the Comments box for explanations of any anomalies
- Paste or type in job duties
- Make sure it’s signed
- Gather any supplemental documents
Be Clear in the Email Subject Line
Request type; employee last name, first initial; start date of request – for example:
- Re-appointment; Smith J; Dec 15 2021
- Correction; Doe J; Nov 30 2021
- Early appointment end; Jones M; Dec 4 2021
- Financial Reporting Funds (13, 21, 23, 61, 62) > email@example.com
- Research Accounting Funds (25 & 30s) > firstname.lastname@example.org
- Operating Funds (11, 40) > email@example.com
- Early appointment end > firstname.lastname@example.org
Review Status of the Appointment
Use myINFO query: SFUDA_RA_ADMINISTER_EES
See How to Complete the PAF for more information.
Compliance requirements and governance policies
BC’s Employment Standards Act defines employer responsibilities and employee rights and entitlements, including:
- Documentation of terms and conditions of employment
- Provision of statutory benefits, including coverage for CPP, EI, WCB and EHT, as well as vacation pay
- Payment of minimum wage, overtime and statutory holiday pay
The Employment Standards Guide offers explanations and examples of employment requirements.
The RPI team is available to answer questions about process, documentation and compliance requirements: email@example.com.