Hiring Freeze - Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated Monday, November 20 at 9 a.m.

About the hiring freeze

Why is there a hiring freeze now?

SFU currently faces a financial shortfall in the 2023/24 fiscal year due to lower international enrollments and increased cost pressures. We expect that SFU's budget is likely to remain tight over the next few years. 

The university is now pursuing cost containment measures to mitigate the financial shortfall, including a staff hiring freeze. The hiring freeze requires leaders and teams, with support from their VPs, Deans and PEI Strategic Business Partner (SBP) to review ways to operationalize and realize efficiencies while continuing to work towards our institutional priorities. It is hoped that a hiring freeze will reduce some expenses as groups work within existing staffing to improve operational efficiencies. 

What is the effective date of hiring freeze?  

The hiring freeze began at 5 p.m. on November 2, 2023.

When will the hiring freeze end?

The executive team is committed to reviewing the measures after we have completed our budget process in March 2024 to determine if this freeze will apply to the 2024/25 budget year.

Which type of employee does the hiring freeze cover? 

The hiring freeze is in effect for all administrative positions (continuing, backfills, temporary, student staff and contract employees).  The hiring freeze does not impact faculty, teaching assistants, sessional instructors, ELC & ITP instructors, graduate facilitators, education mentors, contract instructors, exam invigilators and research employees (including postdocs, research assistants and university research associates).

Why is this hiring freeze affecting only administrative positions?  

To continue prioritizing SFU’s academic mission, teaching and research-related positions will be excluded from the hiring freeze. This includes faculty, teaching assistants, sessional instructors, ELC & ITP instructors, graduate facilitators, education mentors, contract instructors, exam invigilators and or research employees (including postdocs, research assistants and university research associates). There are also exceptions to hiring for positions that are deemed essential to the functioning of the faculties or administrative departments.

Will this affect recent agreements with our unions and association? 

All collective agreement obligations, such as the monetary percentage increases negotiated with our unions and association remain intact. It is hoped that a hiring freeze will reduce some expenses as groups work within existing staffing to improve operational efficiencies. We are committed to minimizing the impact of budget reductions as much as possible.

Who is the point person in my department? 

Each academic/administrative area has an identified point of contact who will be in touch with supervisors to share next steps within respective areas. If you have any questions about the hiring freeze and its impact on your unit, please connect with your supervisor or department chair.

Are Indigenous University Preparation Pathways (IUPP) cohort tutors and mentors paid through PAF exempt from the Hiring Freeze process?

Yes, the IUPP cohort tutor and mentor positions are exempt from the Hiring Freeze process.

Hiring freeze exception approval process

How do I hire during the hiring freeze? 

A process is now in effect to help review requests for exception to hire for positions that are deemed essential to the functioning of the faculties or administrative departments.

While the hiring freeze is in effect, all hiring requests require the completion of an online position request form. 

  • The hiring manager will provide key information on the form that will support decision-making. 
  • When the form is completed, it will automatically be forwarded to the respective Dean or VP for approval. 
  • Deans and VPs are expected to review the position request forms from their respective units. 
  • Upon VP approval, the form will be automatically sent to the Provost and Vice President, Academic, and the Vice President, Finance and Administration for final approval. 

Please see the workflow visual here.

How will it be determined what is “essential” to the functioning of faculties or administrative departments?  

Determining what is essential to the functioning of faculties or administrative departments involves proactive collaboration and thinking. Your SBP will engage with leaders to facilitate this process.  An optimal approach involves understanding the key strategic priorities for your unit and aligning them with What’s Next: The SFU strategy.

Do I need to complete a Position Request Form?  

A position request form is required for the roles below, irrespective of the funding source and length of term:

  • New continuing roles
  • New temporary roles
  • Extensions or backfill of existing continuing roles
  • Extensions or backfill of existing temporary roles
  • All coop student roles, including extensions
  • Pregnancy/Parental leave (or other leave) replacements
  • Temporary promotions
  • Contract employees
  • Those normally hired on a PAF except for research employees (these are normally put directly through payroll)

Are hiring processes actively underway affected by the hiring freeze?

You do not need additional approval to complete a hiring process actively underway as of November 2, 2023; however, if you deem appropriate, you may choose to cease a hiring process actively underway for budgetary reasons if you have not yet reached the offer stage of the selection process. Please contact your PEI Strategic Business Partner (SBP) Services for guidance.

Can we put through group hires (i.e. for semesterly student staff cohorts)?

All positions that have the same job description and term can be grouped and submitted on one Position Request Form as a cohort grouping. 

How long should I expect this approval process to take?  

It could take approximately 2 weeks for the executive team to review request from time of receipt. Hiring managers are asked to please submit your request well before the anticipated start or extension date for the position.

If approvals are made at the VP level, how can I be assured that they know the work involved and how important it is?  

Hiring managers will complete the online position request form which provides an opportunity to outline the rationale for the request, the risks and other items to consider. Once the hiring manager submits the online form, it is directed to their VP for review and if approved, is then directed to the Provost and VP Finance and Administration for determination and final approval.  

How do I know that there is an equity lens on the approvals?

As outlined in What’s Next: The SFU Strategy, SFU is committed to upholding truth and reconciliation and transforming the SFU experience. We are also guided by our values, which include equity and belonging. All hiring managers are encouraged to work with their PEI strategic business partner (SBP) who can help them consider the immediate and long-term institutional goals in the context of their team’s goals. 

Is there an appeal process?  

We appreciate your understanding as we work together to navigate financial changes and pressures here at SFU. All position request forms are being reviewed with care and hard decisions are being made to ensure we are being fiscally responsible. If you have any questions about the decision, please reach out to your Supervisor/VP for guidance.

If my position vacancy or extension request is denied, can I connect with and expect some support from other units across SFU who may have capacity and the required skill set? If so, how do I go about doing this?  

In addition to the hiring freeze, we are also asking faculty and staff to continue to make prudent financial decisions, reduce spending where possible, and explore opportunities for operational efficiencies, cross-institutional collaboration and revenue generation. 

Job evaluation and re-classification

Does the hiring freeze apply to the re-evaluation of existing positions? 

The Compensation team will continue to accept requests for review of existing positions via existing processes to ensure employees are appropriately compensated for the work they are performing. SBPs will be working with leaders on workforce optimization plans to meet budget target reductions, manage workload during the hiring freeze, and determine how job evaluation fits into solutions.

Is there a freeze on job evaluation of new positions?     

Approval via the online position request form process is needed before a new position can be created and evaluated by the compensation team as the position request form process allows for the creation, posting and filling of the new position. Once a position is approved, please submit the position request approval confirmation, along with required documentation to compensation@sfu.ca. The position request approval confirmation will be used in place of the VP approval section on the Compensation Request Form.  

Status change for existing employees

Are status changes such as Temporary to Continuing or Part-Time to Full-Time part of the hiring freeze?

It’s important to note that the hiring freeze is intended to reduce some expenses as groups work within existing staffing to improve operational efficiencies. As the process for changing a position from temporary to continuing status has monetary implications, it requires position request form submission.

What about utilizing the Temporary Pool?  

All Temporary Pool appointments will need to go through the Hiring Freeze Position Request Form process.

About budget reduction

How do we ensure that strategic re-organizations within units are conducted in an integrated manner for the university, so that sustainable structures are built to meet both strategic priorities and financial oversight?

We are collectively working towards our vision to be a leading research university that advances a sustainable and inclusive future. As outlined in What’s Next: The SFU Strategy, this crucial framework is intended to guide decision making, resource allocation, and accountability across the university. If you are needing support to ensure your re-organization is aligned with long-term institutional goals, please reach out to PEI Strategic Business Partner (SBP) Services

What options are available to help me to reduce my budget?  

If you have any questions about the hiring freeze and its impact on your unit, please connect with your supervisor or department chair. As you navigate changes in your team’s operations, please reach out to PEI Strategic Business Partner (SBP) Services if you are exploring options to manage budget constraints. The SBP will connect to a cross-functional support team that consists of Labour Relations, Compensation and Organization Development. The support team will provide guidance and recommendations related to the immediate and long-term institutional goals in the context of your team’s goals. 

Are layoffs anticipated as part of the budget reduction?  

As outlined in the People Plan, SFU is focused on a people-centric approach to transforming the SFU experience. It is hoped that a hiring freeze will reduce some expenses as groups work within existing staffing to improve operational efficiencies. We are committed to minimizing the impact of budget reductions as much as possible. However, employment impacts may be required and will be examined on a case-by-case basis and within the context of SFU policies and labour frameworks.

How can I suggest ideas on how the budget challenges can be addressed?  

The budget process is a collaborative effort led by the Offices of the Vice-President, Finance and Administration and the Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic. The 2024-25 budget cycle is currently underway and detailed budget are being developed across the university. If you missed the budget info session in early November, you can view the recording and budget FAQ to help you understand how to engage with your department and unit budget leads.

How do we ensure that once the hiring freeze is over, that the university doesn’t find itself in a similar situation in a few years?

To help make informed financial decisions, and in alignment with our requirements in Policy B10.05, the university creates a yearly budget that guides academic program delivery and administration of the university. Given the financial outlook, external pressures and the need to balance the budget, different options for managing financial constraints are considered—such as key priorities, trade-offs, value for money and the long-term resiliency of SFU. See the budget FAQs for more information about the work that takes place each year to manage the budget.