Research Assistants

Transitioning Research Assistants to SFU Employees

The university has undertaken to transition Research Assistants to employees to recognize the valuable contributions our research personnel make and deepen our ability to be innovative and competitive. Once transitioned, this group will be supported by the rights and benefits associated with employee status, and will experience greater equity, diversity and inclusion in research opportunities.

The development of hiring and onboarding processes and employment practices will create consistency and provide researchers with the support and expertise necessary to manage complex employment relationships and comply with BC and Federal laws.

Understanding the work Research Assistants do

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. 

The transition process - what's happening

Those categorized as eligible to be SFU employees will need to be transitioned to employment status, which requires the development of an interim intake process and the signing of employment contracts. The project team expects to have these in place by the end of June and will reach out to those affected with more information. In the meantime:

  • If you are a Research Assistant and you are invited to become an SFU employee, your current terms and conditions will be captured in your employment contract as they exist today.
  • If you are a grant holder and any of your Research Assistants are invited to become employees, you will be asked to help create their Offers of Employment based on current contract terms.
  • If you are a Research Assistant and you don't hear from the project team about transitioning, everything continues as usual.

Recognizing employees’ right to unionize

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.


Questions or concerns? Email the project team at:

Facts are posted on the Facts and Updates page, along with the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.