What's New 

Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) benefit extended to all research employees

August 2021

In recognition of the valuable part our research employees play in helping the university become a leader in the delivery of cutting-edge research, the university has arranged for the addition of access to wellness services for those not already covered.

Effective September 1, 2021, those research employees who are not students at the university and their families, will have access to the confidential support services of Homewood Health – SFU’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provider. Staff at Homewood Health are certified in their fields, and their services are completely confidential. Visit the Employee and Family Assistance Program page for more information.

A few things to note:

  • There is no cost for these services.
  • There is no enrolment process, simply call 1-800-663-1142 or use their homeweb or mobile app.
  • Services are confidential and are available to immediate family members as well.
  • The service offering is the same as it is for other SFU employee groups.
  • Research employees who are students continue to be covered by the My Student Support Program (mySSP).

This benefit is available on an interim basis, as the forthcoming collective agreement may impact the offering; updates will be provided when bargaining is concluded.

Thank you to our research employees for their contributions to our Engaging Research goals!

Questions can be directed to the Wellness and Recovery team at rtwdm@sfu.ca or email the Research Personnel Initiative (RPI) team at rp_info@sfu.ca.

***

Collective Bargaining is Underway

Some facts about voluntary recognition and becoming a union member can be found here. Please direct any related questions to Labour Relations: lr_team@sfu.ca.

Only SFU employees are eligible for union membership. Once research personnel have signed an Offer of Employment with SFU, they will have the opportunity to become members of a union. Some Research Assistants may not meet the criteria to be recognized as eligible for employment status, and as such, they may not be eligible for TSSU membership.

A Few Things to Know:

  • Research Assistants and their work will not be affected during this period, although if they are identified as eligible to be an SFU employee they will be invited to sign an employment contract with the university.
  • SFU and TSSU signed a Memorandum of Agreement wherein SFU recognizes employees’ right to unionize.
  • Once those categorized as RAs are signed on as employees, they are eligible for TSSU membership. RAs may be contacted by TSSU in the meantime, as the union would like to begin preparing for collective bargaining on behalf of the RAs who do become employees. RAs may work with TSSU in advance of being confirmed as eligible and/or signing employment letters.
  • The possibility exists that not all current RAs will be categorized as RAs in the future, and as such, they may not be eligible for employment status or TSSU membership.
  • Future employment terms and conditions (including salaries and benefits) for eligible SFU employees, will be negotiated as part of the Collective Agreement bargaining process.
  • There will be no impact to grant funding during the project, and once a Collective Agreement has been signed, the project team will work with units to develop solutions that minimize impacts.

***

Understanding the Work Research Assistants Do

March 2021

The title “Research Assistant” is currently used for a variety of individuals, doing a variety of work. To better understand who is eligible for employee status and to facilitate a consistent onboarding process in the future, the project team reviewed a snapshot of individuals with that title across the departments against some role profiles and consulted with Principal Investigators.

An interesting finding was that many working under scholarship hold the title Research Assistant. As only those individuals receiving employment income are eligible for employment status, this group will not be transitioned as part of this phase. 

***

Information Gathering in Non-Academic Areas 

April 2021

The project team continues its work to identify those Research Assistants who are eligible for employment status. Since the initiative to transition Research Assistants (RA) to employees of the university began (as opposed to employees of the Principal Investigator), over one thousand offers of employment have been created by the Research Personnel Initiative’s (RPI) project team and at this point in time, more than 700 RAs are employees of SFU.

The work to transition appointments to employees began with those eligible RAs in Funds 13 and the 30s, and this is being expanded now to include new, re-appointments and extensions in all research grant and operating funds.

An observation from the project team’s work to date is that many appointments are currently made using the title “Research Assistant”, however these individuals may not be conducting research. The Payroll Appointment Form (PAF) used to create appointments has been updated to help ensure accuracy and the project team has been meeting with all departments to understand the types of appointments that are processed on the PAF, in particular, those who are identified as “Research Assistant” and “Other Non-continuing”. This work should be completed by the end of June; it will help ensure accuracy with record keeping and employment contracts.

***

Electronic Signatures for Offers of Employment

December 2020

We are using DocuSign to gather the appropriate signatures for appointments made under this process. Prospective employees will receive an email with a link to the documents to be reviewed and signed electronically, and their Supervisor/PI will be copied on these so they are aware of where the appointment is in the process.

***

Employee and Family Assistance Program Now Available to Postdoctoral Fellows

December 2020

In addition to having transitioned nearly 700 research personnel to university employment, the Research Personnel Initiative has advanced and received approval for Postdoctoral Fellows to be part of the Employee and Family Assistance Program and eligible Research Assistants to be included in the seasonal closure provision.

Launching a new employee group – our Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Assistants under funds 13 & 30s (at this time) – requires the definition of new procedures to ensure they receive the rights and benefits associated with employment status. These include governance in accordance with employment standards to provide the employee, their Supervisor and the university with the consistent application of legislated practices. For example, creating legal employment contracts in place of verbal or informally written agreements creates clarity and a shared understanding of the expectations of the work to be performed, compensation offered and any benefits to be provided.

There are many benefits to being an employee of SFU, including access to health and wellness resources and support programs, and the Research Personnel Initiative (RPI) has recently received approval for our Internal Postdoctoral Fellows to be included in the Employee and Family Assistance Program provided by Homewood Health.  

There is no requirement for enrolment, and nothing required of the departments or faculty. Services are completely confidential – Internal PDFs and their immediate family members can reach out to Homewood Health at any time. Read more about SFU’s Employee and Family Assistance Program.

Similarly, SFU’s seasonal holiday closure provision will also be extended to this group and to our recently transitioned Research Assistants (see news item below).

RPI continues to define the administrative practices, resources and benefits for this new group; in the meantime, these “quick wins” are effective immediately. 

***

SFU's Seasonal Closure Provision May Apply to Research Assistants 

November 2020

As announced by Labour Relations, the university will be closed from Friday, Dec 25, 2020 through to Friday, Jan 1, 2021 (reopening Monday, Jan 4, 2021). In addition to Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, three discretionary paid days off (Dec 29, 30 & 31) are included in order to provide uninterrupted time off to enjoy time with family and friends during the holiday season.

Research Assistants who have been transitioned to employees of the university as part of the RPI process may be eligible for this. Eligibility is based on whether the RA:

  • Is grant-funded in funds 13 or the 30s, with a signed Offer of Employment created by the Research Personnel Initiative project team;
  • Has an appointment that begins before December 25, 2020 and ends after January 1, 2021; and
  • Will have worked 15 of the 30 days prior to December 25, 2020 (there are no minimum hours required and no requirement for those days to be consecutive).

More details can be found on the Supervising tab, under Statutory holidays and seasonal closure, or speak with your department manager or email rp_info@sfu.ca for further information.

***

345 Research Assistants Officially Employees of the University 

October 2020

This number will continue to rise as the RPI team adds the preparation and processing of Offers of Employment for RA appointments with end dates beyond March 1, 2021 to their activities over the coming months. Congratulations to our growing body of university employed research personnel!

***

Welcome to SFU Employment: Research Assistants

September 2020

More than 160 Research Assistants (RAs) are now officially employees of the university! Many have held appointments in the past and many are new to SFU – congratulations to everyone! Thanks to those who completed the necessary documentation and to those who processed the appointments quickly. 

The first group of eligible RAs has been transitioned from being employed directly by the Principal Investigator to being employed by the university. Those in Fund 13 & the 30s who started or will start an appointment this semester received or will receive formal offers of employment reflecting the terms and conditions agreed to with their Supervisors.

This employee group will continue to be managed in alignment with BC’s Employment Standards Act and be entitled to statutory benefits (EI, CPP, WCB and EHT), and will now share the value of consistent application of university policies and practices and the rights associated with employment status. This includes the right to unionize; RAs who sign offers of employment may also be eligible to join the TSSU.

Compliance requirements supporting the new employment relationship means employment contracts and employee files need to be created based on information provided by their Supervisors and/or department administration staff, which involves a degree of time and effort. The project team is grateful for the contributions of Department leadership, a cross-department working group and members of Payroll, Finance and Research Accounting in shaping the necessary processes and documents, and to the faculty members and staff who participated in the onboarding steps required for this new employee group.

Together we welcome the first set of our valuable Research Assistants to SFU employment status!

 

Additional Information