Postdoctoral Association at Western

Frequently Asked Questions

If you think of additional questions and answers, please let us know.

Questions:

  1. What is the difference between a PDA and PDF?
  2. Who is unionized?
  3. Where can I get more information on filing my taxes as a postdoctoral scholar?
    1. I'm an international postdoctoral scholar, how do I file my taxes?
  4. What courses are offered to postdocs?
  5. Am I eligible for Employment insurance (EI)? How can I opt-in?
  6. Where can I get information about employment opportunities?
  7. What should be on my contract?
  8. What is Western’s policy on Intellectual property?
  9. Where can I get information about grants?
  10. What are my options for getting a health plan?  Dental plan?
  11. I am an international postdoc-  what do I need to do if I want to go on vacation or have my family visit me?
  12. What is the procedure if I have an accident at work?   What are Western’s or my liabilities?
  13. What do I need to do when I'm completing my postdoc at Western?

1) What is the difference between a PDA and PDF?

According to Western, there are two types of postdoctoral scholars: Postdoctoral Fellows (PDFs) and Postdoctoral Associates (PDAs).   PDFs are considered independent contractors while PDAs are considered employees of the University.

When becoming a Postdoctoral Scholar at Western, you should make yourself aware of the advantages and disadvantages of being a PDA or PDF.   The following Checklist may help you make your decision (NOTE:  you will require a UWO computer ID and password to access this document).  This decision will affect how you will be claiming your taxes as well as access to government services such as CPP, EI, and how you can determine vacation time.

Note that Postdoctoral Scholars who are funded directly by a granting agency and do not receive payment through the Western Human Resources system are not eligible for employment status.

For more information, please visit Western's Human Resources Page.

2) Who is unionized?

According to the university, PDAs, or Postdoctoral Associates, are unionized and represented by PSAC Ontario.  However, PDFs can opt into being a member of the union, by contacting Peter Ferguson, PSAC local organizer.

PAW is a community for both PDAs (employees) and PDFs (self employed), unionized or not.  PAW will NOT become involved with union disputes.  

Our mission is to improve the postdoctoral experience outside of issues concerning employment status at Western. Although we believe that it is important for you to have all the information you need to choose to between becoming a PDA or PDF, we will NOT advocate either choice. If you have a concerns or questions about the union, you should contact your union representative:

Tom Woytiuk
480 Sovereign Road, U-11
London Ontario N6M 1A4
woytiut@psac.com

Tel: (519) 659-1124

Update: May 25, 2011

Although PAW has no affiliation with the union organization PSAC (Public Service Alliance of Canada), we do consider ourselves to be an information resource for all postdocs.  Since some of us (Postdoctoral Associates) are union members, we wish to be able to direct your union-related questions appropriately. For this reason, Moha Azimlu, has kindly agreed to be PAW's union liaison.

3) Where can I get more information on filing my taxes as a postdoctoral scholar?

Current Postdoctoral Scholars/Income Tax Reporting

Canadian taxes are usually filed by April 30.  Further information can be obtained at the Canada Revenue Agency. Please note that PAW cannot provide specific advice as claiming taxes varies case by case, especially for international postdocs (see below).

Nonetheless, here are a few online Canadian Tax Calculators to help you determine how much you might need to be saving:

Note that with the Canada Budget 2010, the way some postdocs can file their taxes may have changed.  You may want to refer to Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars's (CAPS) viewpoint on this issue.

NEW (February 21, 2011): PAW has prepared a summary of information that may be useful for you on how to file you taxes.

If you have any questions, please email PAW's Tax Information Representative, Kalin Penev.

You may also wish to contact:

Ryan Devereux, CA, MBA
Tax Manager, BDO Canada LLP
252 Pall Mall Street, Suite 201
London, Ontario, N6A 5P6
Tel: 519 672 8940 | Fax 519 672 5562
rdevereux@bdo.ca

3a) Where can I get more information on filing my taxes as an international postdoctoral scholar?

As an international postdoc, you may also need to pay taxes in your home country.  Some of the considerations to keep in mind include:

Are you considered as residents of Canada for tax purposes (not related to their immigration status)?

Are you considered as residents in your country (for tax purposes) while they are living in Canada?

Does Canada have a tax agreement with your country? If there is a tax agreement, you may not be double-taxed, depending on the agreement (USA has an agreement for example).

When you arrived in Canada, and whether or not you had income prior to that may affect the credits you may be eligible for.

As an international postdoc, you might consider attending the Income Tax Information Workshops offered by The Student Development Centre in February and March.

Specific questions can be directed to:  

Fabiana Tepedino
IESC Programs Coordinator
International and Exchange Student Centre
The University of Western Ontario
WSS, Room 2120
Phone: 519-661-2111 ext. 80359

4) What courses are offered to postdocs?

Current Postdoctoral Scholars/Professional Development

As a postdoctoral scholar you have access to courses and services offered to both graduate students and faculty at the university.

You may found some career development resources from:

Our Calendar of Events lists some of the courses offered by these programs.

5) Am I eligible for Employment insurance (EI)? How can I opt-in?

Current Postdoctoral Scholars/Income Tax Reporting

Information about EI can be obtained from Service Canada.

Postdoctoral associates (PDAs) have EI deducted from their pay where as self-employed postdoctoral fellows (PDFs) do not.

Updated June 1, 2011

At this time, it does *not* seem that PDFs are eligible for the Special Benefits EI for self-employed people due to the type of employment income they receive.

Please note that we have recently been advised that some PDFs have been able to opt-in this special EI and receive the benefits but were later told that their income labeled as research grants made them unable to claim EI benefits.  PAW is trying to get more information on this.  Meanwhile, we urge you to research this option carefully so that you are not forced to repay the benefits.

6) Where can I get information about employment opportunities?

When PAW receives an advertisement that may be of relevance to you, these will posted on our website.  In addition, you can find other links to employment opportunities at Graduate Studies - Postdoctoral Scholars.

Alternatively, postdocs should take the initiative to look at associations within your discipline, ask around the department about employment opportunities.

7) What should be on my contract?

You might want to consider using the contract present on the Human Resources page. 

Depending on whether you are an employee (ie. postdoctoral associate) or self employed (ie. postdoctoral fellow), there are differences in what can be present in your contract. Note that contracts for PDFs will not mention vacation time because this type of postdoc is considered an independent contractor.  Some of the regulations are found in the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA)'s guide (pdf).

In either case, we recommend that you discuss questions or concerns with your supervisor before you sign your contract such that both of you understand your expectations and obligations before any issues arise.

8) What is Western’s policy on Intellectual property?

Information about intellectual property can be found at Research@Western

A Guide to Intellectual Property for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars (pdf) written by The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies.

If you are interested in the learning more about Intellectual property, visit Western Intellectual Property Association.

9) Where can I get information about grants?

Current/Funding Opportunities
 
Postdoctoral scholars can secure funding from fellowship programs or external granting agencies or may be offered funding from their faculty mentors’ grant or research resources.

Note that there are also External Scholarships Competitions coordinated by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) at Western

SGPS also hosts information sessions on several of these competitions.

10) What are my options for getting a health plan?  Dental plan?

Current Postdoctoral Scholars/Health Plans

Current Postdoctoral Scholars/Health Services

Postdoctoral Scholars may opt-in either the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) health plan or the Alumni Western Health and Dental Plan.  Note that you do NOT have to be UWO alumni to register for the Alumni Western plan. 

Further information is also available on our website Health Plans.

As a postdoctoral scholar you have access to the UWO's Staff/Faculty Health Services:

UCC Rm 25 (lower level)
Fax: 519.661.3824
Phone: 519.661.2047
Hours: Mon-Fri: 8:30am-4pm

You will need to register by filling out the Registration Form and returning it to the Staff/Faculty Family Practice Clinic. 

11) I am an international postdoc-  what do I need to do if I want to go on vacation or have my family visit me?

As an international postdoc, you may wish to contact the Community Legal Services at Western Law. Some of their many free services offered to UWO postdoctoral scholars include help with immigration issues. 

12) What is the procedure if I have an accident at work?   What are Western’s or my liabilities?

For more information visit UWO's Occupational Health and Safety.

Inform yourself of the different safety training sessions you might need to attend and what you need to do to report accidents or incidents.

13) What do I need to do when I’m completing my postdoc at Western?

For some information concerning the steps you should accomplish before you leave, visit the SGPS website.

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