For Newly Employed Research Assistants

If you are a Research Assistant who has recently signed an Offer of Employment with the university – welcome – you are now an SFU employee!

Very little will be different with regard to your duties, supervision and reporting relationship – your time and work will continue to be defined and managed by the Principal Investigator (your Supervisor), although with a little more formality to ensure compliance with provincial and federal legislation and alignment with university policies and standards.

While there are many resources available to new SFU employees on the Human Resources site, the RPI team has gathered a few things here that you may wish to know.

Orientation to SFU

You will have received a link to the New Employee Orientation along with your Offer of Employment please take time to review this.

Your Supervisor is responsible for helping new employees feel welcome on their team and as part of the University. This includes an overview of SFU’s culture; an understanding of the faculty/ department’s structure, procedures and tools for carrying out duties; training and expectations for the role, and a safety orientation.


Benefits for Research Assistants

All university employees receive statutory (mandatory) benefits: Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Employment Insurance (EI), Workers’ Compensation (WCB) and Health Insurance BC (HIBC) (formerly MSP).  Your Supervisor pays the employer’s portion of premiums, and any premiums that are required to be paid by the employee will automatically be deducted from your pay. Deduction details can be found on your pay advice at

Some grant-funded Research Assistants are also eligible for discretionary benefits. Eligibility is determined by two things:

1.  the funding agency’s guidelines for how grant funds may be used – many do not allow the grant holder to pay benefits from the fund;

then, if the grant allows:

2.  the Supervisor’s discretion – each PI determines the terms and conditions of employment on an individual basis, including whether they offer discretionary (extended health/dental) benefits.

Each Offer of Employment will state whether the Research Assistant is eligible for discretionary benefits (extended health and dental) in addition to mandatory benefits.

Note that NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR do not allow their grant holders to use funds to pay for RA benefits.


Discretionary benefits coverage is not automatic – employees must enroll!

If your Offer letter specifies that you are eligible for extended health and dental benefits (discretionary):

Note that you will be responsible to pay 50% of the premiums for these benefits.

If eligible, you will receive the relevant enrolment forms with your Offer of Employment. Applications and inquiries about benefits should be submitted to:


How your pay works 

Hours worked, overtime and statutory holiday pay are governed by ESA.

SFU pays its employees on a bi-weekly basis. Your pay will be direct deposited to your bank every other Friday. The Payroll department in Finance is responsible for this function.

Your Offer of Employment reflects the terms of employment including rate of pay offered by/ agreed to with your Supervisor.

Rates of pay are determined by the Supervisor but they must meet BC’s minimum wage ($14.60/hour in October 2020).

Overtime must be approved in writing by your Supervisor, before it is worked.

Proper timekeeping will help ensure your pay is accurate, so be sure to check with your Supervisor and follow protocols for capturing hours worked, requesting and taking time off.


Vacation time and pay

Vacation entitlement is governed by ESA.

If you are a “salaried” employee, you are entitled to receive a minimum of 2 weeks’ time off per full year of service. This amount will be pro-rated if your appointment is shorter than a full year, provided you have worked for at least 5 days. For appointments that are shorter than 4 months, your Supervisor has the option of paying a minimum of 4% in lieu of that vacation time – if this has been agreed to, it will appear on your Offer of Employment and on your pay advice.

If you are entitled to time off, but have not taken your full vacation entitlement at the end of your appointment, the remaining amount will be paid to you on your final pay. For this reason, it’s important to request vacation time in writing and/or follow your Supervisor’s procedures for keeping track of your time off.

If you are an “hourly” employee, you will be paid a minimum of 4% in lieu of vacation pay on top of your hourly rate. There is no legal requirement for you to take time off, and any time you do take off would be without pay. 


How employment ends

Employment termination is governed by ESA.

Your Offer of Employment reflects the date your employment is expected to end.


When your employment ends as agreed to in your Offer of Employment, your Supervisor will conduct the university’s standard Separation Checklist to collect equipment, keys etc. and no other action is required.


Should you decide to resign and end your employment early, you’ll need to give written notice to your Supervisor (ideally 2 weeks) that you are resigning, and indicate when your last day of work will be.

Your Supervisor will submit this notice to the Research Personnel Initiative team.

If you’re a “salaried” employee and have not received pay in lieu of vacation time, it is strongly recommended that you take your vacation during your appointment, however, you will be paid out for any vacation earned but not taken and on your final pay, unless you’ve been receiving pay in lieu of vacation.

If you’re an “hourly” employee, you will have been paid your vacation entitlement on each pay and therefore you won’t receive a payout at the end of your employment.

Your Supervisor will walk you through the university’s standard Separation Checklist on your last day.


Regardless of the reason for ending employment early (insufficient funding, lack of work, etc.), the university is required to provide sufficient written notice or pay equal to the amount of the notice period.

The amount of notice is determined by the length of service, according to ESA Guidelines. This is typically: no notice or payout required if less than 3 months worked, 1 week if you’ve worked between 3 months but less than a year, and 2 weeks for 1-3 years worked.

Your Supervisor will submit a notice of early employment end to the Research Personnel Iniative team and you’ll receive a "notice of termination" letter from SFU, informing you that your appointment is ending.

If you are a “salaried” employee, you will be paid out for any vacation earned but not taken and this will be noted on your final pay advice, unless you’ve been receiving pay in lieu of vacation.

If you are an “hourly” employee, you will have been paid your vacation entitlement on each pay and therefore you won’t receive a payout at the end of your employment.


Access to university facilities, tools, services and resources

There are many facilities and services available to the SFU community (students, faculty, staff and alumni), however, these are not all available and free to temporary employees, and grant-funded Research Assistants are temporary employees. Be sure to check with each facility or service to determine whether you have access and/or your access is covered by “staff benefits” or you need to pay the relevant fees.

NOTE that all Canvas courses and any online courses e.g. animal care, ethics, require an active computing ID.  

Please also speak with your Supervisor and explore the SFU website for other amenties and services that might be available.


Your employment rights 

BC’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) provides employers and employees with guidelines to ensure the consistent and legal application of employment practices. Refer to the ESA website and SFU’s policies and procedures for facts and procedural information. 

Some research assistants who are employees of the university are also eligible to become a member of a union. Please contact Labour Relations with questions:

This fact sheet provides information about voluntary recognition and becoming a member of a union.



Please speak with your Supervisor if you have questions that aren’t answered here, browse, or email the project team: If you would like to share anonymous comments or questions, please use the Comments and Questions page.