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Home » Managing Research Grants » Spending Research Dollars » Hiring/Paying Research Staff

Hiring/Paying Research Staff

Research staff are paid through the University payroll system. The University does not pay for services using cash. Depending on the type of engagement many factors come into play. To guide you through the process ensuring compliance with University policies and procedures, and with Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) regulations below is information on the various types of engagement situations.

To hire non-student research staff PI's should contact their faculty research adminstrator. Also refer to the Employees Paid from Research Funds policy and Persons Paid from Research Grants and Contracts Held by York University faculty members policies and procedures.

All payments to graduate students are processed through the Faculty of Graduate Studies, regardless of the type of income being paid. PI's can also contact their departmental Graduate Program Assistant. More information and contact information can be found on the graduate students recruitment website.

Salaries to postdoctoral fellows are limited to two years' support (NSERC and SSHRC). Three years' support is acceptable, when justified, to attract exceptional candidates from outside Canada. The three-year appointment must be offered up front and reported to the Agency with a written justification within one month of an offer being accepted (NSERC only).

Payment to undergraduates and staff for services on a research project are made through Payroll. If the payment is of short-term duration, the work is considered to be of casual nature, and a completed Employee Transaction Form (ETF) is required. More information is available on the Human Resources Forms and Documents website or by contacting Organizational Learning and People Excellence, Human Resources.

When a small business or individual is engaged to provide a service on a research project at York, the factor determining payment arrangements is whether there exists an employee-employer relationship.

Prior to engaging the service an Independent Contractor Questionnaire (PDF) needs to be submitted to General Accounting, Finance. The questionnaire is assessed to determine the employee-employer relationship and the decision is communicated to the PI.

In instances where the work done by faculty, students and staff on research projects is considered employment, the payment for services is done through the Payroll system . Depending on the type of hire an ETF form, available on the Human Resources, Forms and Documents website, is completed and sent to Payroll.

When the assessment determines the work performed is that of an independent contractor the payment for services is processed through Accounts Payable, Finance.

An Independent Contractor is defined as a person or entity retained under a fee-for-service arrangement that is not an employment agreement, to perform specific tasks under a client's direction for a limited period of time.

To determine how the contractor should be paid, an Independent Contractor Questionnaire needs to be submitted to Research Accounting, Finance before finalizing the contract.

Employers should refer to York's Guideline Employee/Employer vs. Independent Contractor. Further information regarding Independent Contractor relationships can also be found on the CRA website Employee/Self-Employed.

A consultant is defined as a person or entity that under an agreement, other than an employment agreement, provides expert or strategic advice and related services for consideration and decision making.

Regardless of total purchase value, all consulting services are to be competitively bid. Contact Strategic Procurement Services for assistance.

Nominal payments to individuals (e.g. research subjects, survey participants) can be paid by cash, cheque or gift card and claimed back (e.g. cash or gift cards up to $300 per person). PI's or signing delegates are required to obtain signed receipts and/or proof of payment.

In order to be reimbursed for payments made to research subjects, claimants must summarize the payments using the Research Subject and Participants Log which protects the confidentiality of individuals.

Payment to translators or guides and other service providers in remote locations or third world countries can be paid by cash. To arrange this, contact Research Accounting ahead of time.

What is an honorarium?
An honorarium is a gift of an object or a small sum of money, normally less that $500, in thanks for a favour done for the university by an individual. A SIN number is required for all payments of gifts. At the end of the calendar year, individuals who have received any payment for a gift will receive a T4A. In the case where an individual is a York employee and is paid an honorarium, the payment is treated as employment income subject to all statutory withholding or source deductions and as such is reported on a T4.

Honorarium vs Fee for Service
If the "honorarium" is expected by the recipient for the completion of a task for the university, or the value of the honorarium is greater than $500, it is no longer considered a gift, but instead is a "fee for service". Prior to the engagement of any individual for a service, the Independent Contractor Questionnaire needs to be completed and submitted to General Accounting, Finance for assessment of whether the individual should be paid via invoice or through Payroll.

NOTE: A payment to a company or association cannot be classified as an honorarium.

Submitting Honorarium Documents for Processing
Honorariums are paid via Payroll. There are two available forms for honorarium found on YU Link's Forms and Documents section:

  • ETF Honorarium Payment Form for Non-York Employees (DOC) 
  • ETF Community Honorarium Form for First Nations, M├ętis and Inuit Individuals (PDF)

Please use the document that is applicable to your situation.

Should supporting documentation be needed, include any of the following:
. copy of the invitation to speak or participate in the event
. meeting agenda with names of participants
. poster of the event clearly indicating the participation of the individual being paid

Individual payments to non residents doing consulting or other work in Canada are paid through Payroll using the ETF Non-Resident Payment Form found on YU Link/Employee Resources/Forms and Documents. A 15% withholding tax is deducted and the payee will receive a Non Resident (NR) T4 slip. If the individual has applied for and received a tax waiver confirmation from CRA the payment is exempt from tax and no withholding tax will be deducted. Tax waivers must be received four (4) weeks prior to payment.

Payments to non residents for consulting services or other work performed outside of Canada are paid through Payroll using the same form and not subject to withholding tax. No T4A is provided.

Researchers sometimes enter into research agreements with external agencies that will allow for a teaching course buyout. The sponsoring agency of the research agreement provides funding to cover the teaching time of the researcher. The department will assess what the cost will be to hire a contract instructor and that amount is then charged back to the research fund. The departments operating cost centre, where the teaching salary is paid from, is credited with this amount.

The advancement of funds to research partners on SSHRC and NSERC grants is not allowed. Payments to research partners are processed based on invoices submitted to York University for payment of services.

Advancement of funds can be processed for co-applicants and co-investigators named on SSHRC and NSERC grants and this is done via an Inter Institutional Agreement drafted by ORS and a Request for Accountable Advance Form (PDF) completed from the PI.