Planning to Appoint or Re-Appoint
New appointments, re-appointments and extensions for grant-funded research employees are processed as SFU employees, and as such require an employment contract with the university and alignment with BC's Employment Standards Act (ESA) and the university's policies and standards.
Supervisors/PIs and department administrators are encouraged to review the Guide to BC’s Employment Standards Act for clairty about the rights and responsibilities of employees and their employer; and review the options and considerations for items that impact budgets, and the university's procedures that have been established to facilitate a smooth and compliant hiring and employment experience. Step-by-step procedures can be found under Appointing.
A few things to note
- Work cannot begin without a signed Offer of Employment from the prospective employees. Supervisors and/or Department representatives must provide the relevant information about each appointment to enable the RPI team to create or modify a contract.
- Eligible prospective employees will be asked to sign the Offer of Employment (via DocuSign) that contains these terms, to confirm them as SFU employees.
- The Supervisor’s grant will be responsible for CPP, EI, WCB, EHT.
- Supervisors may offer health and dental coverage if allowed by the granting agency (employer portion of benefits is 50%, the RA pays 50%). Health benefits are still considered discretionary.
- BC's Employment Standards Act governs the employment practices for appointing,re-appointing, changing the terms of employment or ending an appointment early.
- Supervisors are expected to provide onboarding, training, supervisory dutires and performance management.
- RPI processes appointments, maintains employee files and provides support to Supervisors, departments and research employees as needed.
Eligibility for employment status
Many of SFU’s employees have the title “research assistant”, however, this does not mean they are eligible for employment status. The definition of "eligible" is:
- conducting research activities for a Principal Investigator and paid from a research grant
- activities may be conducting or supporting research (find the distinction here)
- appointed as a Postdoctoral Fellow
Many students with the title “Research Assistant” are receiving scholarship income – which means they are not eligible for employment status.
Those being paid scholarship income and USRAs are not eligible for employment.
Defining the work to be performed
The Supervisor is responsible for defining the scope of work and specific duties the RA will be expected to perform for the duration of the appointment.
Use language to show the complexity of the task, as well as the level of independence, supervision, direction & responsibility e.g.: assists, responsible for, supports, conducts, etc.
The PAF offers a space for capturing what work is to be performed; this information will be used to populate the Duties Performed section of the Offer of Employment. Duties may be typed or pasted from another source. The Supervisor may attach a Word document with a list of duties or the Duties Checklist spreadsheet.
The process to transition RAs
A signed Offer of Employment must be recieved by RPI before work can begin.
The Supervisor or a department representative capture the terms agreed to between the Supervisor and the prospective employee on the PAF.
These terms and conditions will be entered into an SFU-approved Offer of Employment by RPI; and include:
- 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 employee
An Offer of Employment will be 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.
Employee information will be entered into myINFO (RPI maintains new employee files).
Departments and Supervisors will be copied when the employee receives their Offer of Employment, however the following query may be used to determine the status of appointments in myINFO: SFUDA_RA_ADMINISTER_EES.
Onboarding, training, and orientation are the Supervisor’s responsibility.
Planning for the cost of benefits
The cost of statutory and discretionary benefits will continue to be funded by the respective grants, and these should be considered when budgeting. A budget planning calculator has been created to facilitate this.
Rates of pay are determined by the Supervisor but must meet BC’s minimum wage.
Use this Calculator to estimate:
- the minimum amount of time required and/or
- the cost to the grant.
Employees should be encouraged to take their vacation time in order to refresh.
ESA requires the provision of vacation time and/or pay; the amount you can offer is flexible but it must meet the ESA minimum.
HOURLY EMPLOYEE VACATION
- Minimum of 4% in lieu of vacation will be paid in addition to the employee's hourly rate.
- There is no requirement for employees to take time off and any vacation time taken would be without pay.
- No vacation payout will be required at the end of the appointment.
SALARIED EMPLOYEE VACATION
- Minimum of 2 weeks' time off as vacation per full year of service.
- This two-week entitlement is pro-rated for the appointment term if the appointment is shorter than a full year, provided the employee worked for 5 days or more.
- Vacation must be taken within 12 months of being earned.
Vacation time earned but not taken must be paid out at the end of employment contracts (when the employment relationship ends), regardless of the reason for ending the appointment:
- If the employee has not yet taken their earned vacation time, a payout equal to the amount of vacation time owing (earned but not taken) will be added to their last pay.
- This payout is an expense to the grant.
- A supervisor may talk to the employee about taking any remaining vacation before the end of the contract. This may reduce the payment to the employee.
- If the end date of the employee’s current contract is extended, the employment relationship continues and their vacation carries forward. Note the potential for significant expense if too much unused vacation time accrues.
- According to BC’s Employment Standards Act, the employee cannot skip taking vacation time and just receive vacation pay i.e. they may not choose to receive a payout instead of taking their earned vacation time.
Supervisors must continue to track vacation time taken, to limit the risk of overpayment.
The Supervisor is responsible for the cost of statutory benefits. The cost is approximately 10% of the gross salary. This amount is in addition to the budgeted salary. It is intended to cover:
- Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
- Employment Insurance (EI)
- Workers Compensation (WCB)
- Employer Health Tax (EHT)
Offering discretionary benefits (extended health and dental) is optional and not all grants allow the Supervisor to offer benefits. Be sure to check the allowable expenditures of the granting agency before committing to offer such benefits to your RA.
If the grant allows, the Supervisor may offer additional health benefits:
- The Supervisor is responsible for 50% of the cost, the RA must pay the other 50%.
- If an RA is offered discretionary benefits, these will be captured in the offer of employment.
Providing information about the funding source(s)
The additional funding information boxes on the PAF reduces the number of PAFs required.
It is no longer necessary to submit a separate PAF for each funding source – all project numbers can be captured on a single PAF.
It is no longer necessary to end an appointment then re-appoint in order to change the funding source – changes to funding sources may be made quickly with the newly revised PAF (see Changing the Funding Source tab).
It is still necessary for the grant’s signing authority to sign the PAF.
Compliance requirements and governance policies
The provincial Employment Standards Act and SFU’s policies will guide employment practices for this group.
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 BC Employment Standards Guide offers explanations and examples of employment requirements.
- SFU policies and procedures can be found here.