Engaging and Renewing a Postdoc
Faculty members who wish to engage a postdoctoral fellow are encouraged to review the Revised Engagement Details on the Vice-President & Provost’s website and also to become familiar with the official policies for postdoctoral fellows established by Governing Council.
While the Vice-Provost’s office has established the ground rules for engaging a postdoc, there are a number of best practices for faculty and staff when engaging or renewing a postdoc.
- Postdocs should be engaged for a minimum period of one year. If funding is not available for a year or the research project itself does not have a long duration, a shorter fellowship period should be considered.
- Postdocs should not be engaged prior to a successful defence although, in some instances, postdocs may be engaged prior to meeting all their degree requirements. Letters of engagement should stipulate that all requirements for the degree must be completed by a certain date (usually within six months of the start date of the fellowship); otherwise, the offer should be considered null and void.
- Because of immigration issues, it may not be possible to engage international postdoctoral fellows prior to the completion of all degree requirements. In most cases, the Canadian embassy will issue a work permit only when the applicant can supply a statement from their home institution attesting to the fact that the individual has met all degree requirements. The point at which such a letter can be provided will vary greatly among institutions. U of T will issue such a letter only after a defended and corrected thesis has been submitted to the electronic repository.
- Postdocs should be engaged at no less than the minimum funding. This funding may be obtained by the postdoc as an award or fellowship, through the supervisor’s operating grants, or through departmental funds (or any combination thereof). Postdocs must NOT be self-funded (i.e., here on their own private funds). Care must be taken to ensure that postdocs who have obtained funding from an external agency, inside or outside Canada, meet the minimum funding requirement in Canadian dollars.
- In the case of an international postdoc whose engagement is renewed, OHIP will not be extended until the postdoc can produce the new extended work permit. It can take at least four months from the application date to receive the new work permit, so renewal letters should be given to international postdocs as far in advance as possible. Postdocs can continue their research in Canada on “implied status” if they applied 30 days prior to the end date of their original work permit, but they may not be able to re-enter the country on such a status if they leave Canada during this period (e.g., for a conference or over the December holiday) or receive health care, as mentioned above.
Postdoctoral Trainees and Employees
Postdocs fall into two categories, based on their funding source. If all the postdoc’s funding is from the supervisor’s grant, that postdoc is an employee, and is a member of CUPE 3902 Unit 5, subject to the collective agreement established between the university and that unit. If all the postdoc’s funding is from an award external to the U of T that the postdoc has applied for and won, that postdoc is a trainee (regardless of whether or not the funding is paid through U of T payroll). If a postdoc begins their engagement with combined, or “split,” funding (funding from both the supervisor and an external agency), the postdoc is a trainee; the ratio of funding source does not apply. If a postdoc begins as an employee, obtains external funding during the contract, and the amount of that external funding is less on a monthly basis than the funding the supervisor continues to provide, that postdoc remains an employee; if the external funding is greater, that postdoc becomes a trainee.
Payroll for employee postdocs has been centralized on each campus; business officers will continue to process payroll, as required, for trainee postdocs. It is very important that any changes in a postdoc’s status be reported immediately, and a new letter of engagement issued.
Postdoctoral Registration System
All on-campus postdocs, regardless of the source of their funding, and all off-campus postdocs paid through U of T payroll, must be registered in the Postdoctoral Registration System (PRS). The person responsible for postdoctoral matters at the unit level (e.g., business officer or graduate administrator) may access the database through their UTOR ID and password; if you are unsuccessful in accessing the database, email the Postdoctoral Office. Ideally, no more than two people in any department would have access to this database.
Engagement letters will be generated automatically once all relevant information is entered onto the Postdoctoral Registration System (PRS). Once all signatures have been obtained (supervisor, chair, and postdoctoral fellow), confirm the engagement on the database. This step will initiate an exchange of information overnight between the PRS and UTORAUTH; UTORIDs will be assigned through this process.
Letters to obtain library access may be requested by postdocs the day following a confirmation in the PRS, up to one month ahead of the start date of the engagement.
The engagement letters should not be adjusted! Our legal counsel has reviewed them carefully to make sure they contain appropriate information and language. Please email the Postdoctoral Office if you think a change is necessary.
The Report feature on the PRS should be run at least once a term. Please report any anomalies in your unit’s profiles to the Postdoctoral Office. Anomalies include overlapping engagement dates, incorrect start and end dates, incorrect stipend amounts, and incorrect statuses (e.g., the status shows completed when the postdoc is still engaged, or the engagement has not been confirmed).
The minimum stipend is $35,704.00 as of January 1, 2021 (formerly $35,350 as of January 17, 2020). The minimum stipend or salary applies to both employee and trainee postdocs.
Health Benefits for Postdoctoral Fellows
Employees are no longer required to complete the benefits enrollment form for single coverage; coverage is effective on the first day of the month following their first pay. If they wish to opt into family enrolment (i.e., spouse / partner and children) or to opt out of the plan based on prior spousal coverage, they should be advised to contact the Postdoctoral Office.
At the time of employment contract extension/renewal, employees continue with the same plan coverage, and are not required to complete the benefits enrollment form. Health and dental coverage remains the same and is retroactive to the end date of their previous employment contract (unless there is a break in employment), and they are enrolled in the plan at the same coverage level as their initial enrolment (i.e., single or family coverage). If they require a change to their level of coverage, they should be advised to contact the Postdoctoral Office.
At the time of renewal/extension of Postdoctoral Fellows’ contracts, business officers should copy Keithann Newton, Benefits Specialist and Anjeli’s Krishan, ESS & Benefits Advisor on the payroll information email that they send to Central PDF Payroll at the time of renewal/extension of Postdoctoral Fellows’ contracts.
Trainee PDFs whose awards are processed through U of T payroll, or who are receiving a stipend top-up from their supervisor, are eligible for the Green Shield benefit. Trainee postdocs must enrol through the Postdoctoral Office; they will not be automatically added to the benefit plan. At the time of renewal/extension of Trainee PDF contracts, PDFs must re-enrol in the Green Shield benefit through the Postdoctoral Office.
Engagement of International Postdoctoral Fellows
All international postdocs must have a work permit, regardless of the length of their stay or the nature of their research. Business officers must connect with HR Immigration to file a request for an Employee ID number through the CIC Portal. Postdocs will not be able to apply for a permit renewal without this number.
Postdocs must provide proof that they have applied for a renewed work permit before the current permit expired in order to continue working in Canada (on “implied status”). Postdocs who leave Canada on implied status lose that status upon returning to Canada and can no longer work or receive pay until their new permit arrives. For more information on the department’s role in inviting and renewing an international postdoc, please visit the Immigration Resources page on the People Strategy, Equity & Culture website, or email PSEC for further information.
Registration at the Postdoctoral Office
Postdocs must visit the Postdoctoral Office to:
- enrol in the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) (if international);
- enrol in the Green Shield benefit (if paid through U of T payroll); and
- obtain a letter to access University of Toronto Libraries’ system.
Graduate units should not issue letters for library access, but should advise PDFs to visit the office after they have been confirmed in the database.
Departmental chairs and faculty are requested to review the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 and Unit 5 Collective Agreements prior to engaging a postdoctoral fellow. Postdocs may not teach under Unit 3.
Postdocs who undertake duties such as teaching responsibilities while engaged at the University will fall under the provisions of the collective agreement. Union dues will be deducted on earnings for the teaching portion of the postdoctoral activities.
If teaching responsibilities are a requirement of an external grant or award, the postdoc would still fall under the CUPE 3902 collective agreement for the teaching portion of his/her engagement; in this instance, Labour Relations should be contacted regarding posting provisions. Please consult the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 Collective Agreement and/or email Labour Relations for further information.
Teaching appointments in most cases are separate from the postdoctoral engagement.