Planning to Appoint or Re-Appoint
This phase will see the transition of new RA appointments or RA re-appointments in Funds 13 and the 30s. The first group - new or re-appointments for the Fall semester - have been transitioned and the project team is now beginning to transition those active appointments with end dates that go beyond March 1, 2021.
Procedures for appointing RAs as university employees will be substantially the same as they are today, however formally appointing an RA requires an employment contract with the university.
Supervisors will need to provide this information for new RAs and/or to re-appoint current RAs, and to enable the RPI team to create Offers of Employment for this group. The information will be provided by Supervisors/ departments using a revised PAF – it will include items such as:
- description of duties to be performed
- information about expected hours of work
- rate of pay
Eligible RAs will be asked to sign the Offer of Employment (via DocuSign) that contains these terms, to confirm them as SFU employees.
The RPI team will maintain new employee files for the duration of the project.
Step-by-step procedures can be found on the Appointing tab of this site.
A few things to note
- A signed employment contract must be received from the RA before work begins.
- The Supervisor will continue to define the terms for each appointment.
- There is no requirement to use the title “research assistant”. Appointments may be made with different titles that more appropriately reflect the work being done.
- The Supervisor’s grant will continue to be responsible for CPP, EI, WCB, EHT.
- Supervisors will continue to be able to 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.
- Supervisors will continue to follow employment standards practices when appointing or re-appointing, changing the terms of employment or ending an appointment early.
- Once transitioned to SFU employees, this group will no longer be governed by Policy R50-02.
- Supervisors will be expected to continue to provide the same onboarding, training, supervisory and performance management as before.
- All RA appointments, re-appointments and termination of appointments for this group will be processed by the RPI team, at the direction of the Supervisor/ department.
- Many students with the title “Research Assistant” are receiving scholarship income – which means they are not eligible for employment status.
- USRAs will not be transitioned at this time.
- RAs with active current appointments with an end date earlier than March 1, 2021 will be captured if/when their appointment is renewed.
Eligibility for employment status
Many of SFU’s research personnel have the title “research assistant”, however, not all are eligible for employment status. The university is working to understand the many functions and duties served by those with this title, and to identify which of those will be eligible. This will be underway into the fall.
As a starting point for this phase, the definition of eligible RA is:
- conducting research activities for a Principal Investigator and paid from a grant
- paid from Fund 13 and/or the 30s
NOTE that those being paid scholarship income 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 revised PAF offers a checklist of possible duties an RA might do – the Supervisor may select as many of these as desired to populate the Duties Performed section of the offer of employment AND/OR,
The Supervisor may define their own set of duties in the ‘Other Duties’ section of the revised PAF and/or,
The Supervisor may attach a Word document with a list of duties or the Duties Checklist spreadsheet.
The process to transition RAs with end dates beyond March 1, 2021
ESA requires signed offers of employment before work can begin.
A department representative will capture the terms agreed to with your RA in the recently revised PAF.
Terms and conditions of the appointment 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 RA
An Offer of Employment will be emailed to the RA 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 will maintain new employee files).
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 will continue to be 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 ($14.60/hour in July 2020).
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 revised PAF will reduce 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 Employment Standards website offers explanations and examples of employment requirements.
- SFU policies and procedures can be found here.