This post is to remind all postdocs working in Canada about the deadline to apply for a ruling from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for the purposes of gaining access to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) statutory benefits programs (i.e., a CPP/EI Ruling).

The deadline to apply to the CRA for a CPP/EI Ruling pertaining to work performed (’employment’) between January 1st and December 31st 2017 is June 30th, 2018.

You have 10 days to complete and submit form CPT1 (Request for a Ruling as to the Status of a Worker under the Canada Pension Plan and/or the Employment Insurance Act) if you wish to retroactively request access to CPP and EI for your work in 2017. The form takes only a few minutes to complete, but there are many factors to consider (see below and previous posts on this matter).

Why ask for a CPP/EI Ruling?

Given the murky employment status of many postdocs working in Canada, CPP/EI Rulings are often the only option available to postdocs facing financial challenges due to normal life events such as having/adopting a child, falling ill, or losing a job. This approach is also one of the only ways that most postdocs in Canada can gain access to a pension (CPP) and for new/expecting fathers it is often the only approach that provides access to paid paternal leave (through EI shared parental leave benefits) beyond the handful of days offered by most institutions.

To inform postdocs about this option I wrote an article about CPP/EI Rulings that was posted on the CAPS/ACSP website in June 2016 as well as a post for the Black Hole Blog on University Affairs (Employment insurance for postdocs needs to be a priority). The article explained the process, factors to consider in deciding whether a ruling would be in your personal best interest, and some guidelines regarding the information used by the CRA in making these decisions. While some minor details have changed (see updates below), for the most part the advice provided in the original article remains accurate and reliable. You can access the original article here – “CRA Employment Status Rulings: Important information for all postdocs working in Canada”.

Months after the original article appeared on the CAPS/ACSP website the CRA decided to issue an interpretive article explaining how they decide whether a postdoc is an employee for the purposes of access to CPP and EI. I recommend that anyone considering requesting a ruling also read this article, which can be found here, and check the lists of factors that indicate whether a postdoc (i.e., “PDF”) is or is not an employee to figure out whether or not your particular situation is likely to be ruled that of an employee prior to requesting a ruling.

Precedence

Previous rulings by the CRA (and/or provincial labour boards) suggests that:

  • Internally-funded postdocs at universities are highly likely to be ruled employees. This issue has been ruled on so many times that any institution that does not treat internally-funded postdocs as employees at this point is rather blatantly ignoring the rulings on this matter.
  • Visiting fellows in Government of Canada laboratories are also likely to be ruled employees given that the CRA already ruled in favour of visiting fellows being employees back in 2014 (see “Future of VF Postdoc Program in Doubt”; I would provide a link to the CRA Ruling itself, but they’re not publicly available). That ruling should have led to a policy change across Government labs under all Ministries, yet I recently learned that was not the case for some Ministries – a matter that CAPS/ACSP will follow up on as required in the near future.

What remains unclear is whether the CRA might rule in favour of an externally-funded postdoc (e.g., tri-agency fellowship holders) at a university. There is no precedence for this that I am aware of, so if any externally-funded postdoc decides to pursue a CRA Ruling please let me know. I would be more than happy to provide support and help prepare evidence for such a case and the outcome could set an important precedent that other postdocs should be aware of.

In closing, I would like to remind you all to consider this option carefully, as it may not be the best choice for every person – particularly if you wish to avoid conflict with your supervisor and/or administration. You all do research for a living, so I expect you to exercise due diligence and ensure that you are making an informed decision before you proceed.

CAPS/ACSP is aware of at least 5 successful requests for rulings by postdocs in the past couple of years. If you request (or requested) a ruling, please tell us and let us know about the outcome. If you have any questions or comments about this post feel free to message me personally at chair@caps-acsp.ca.

Thanks for your time and all the best.

Sincerely,

Joseph S. Sparling, PhD
Chair, CAPS/ACSP


Updates to the original CPP/EI Rulings article:

  • The EI premium rates went down in 2017, so the rate is now 1.63% with a maximum annual premium of $836.19 for employees and $1,170.67 for employers. The rate for CPP remained at 4.95% for 2017, but the maximum annual contribution for employees and employers increased to $2,564.10. It should also be noted that rates of deductions for employees in Quebec differ from those provided. Quebec has a lower EI rate, which is set at 1.27% with maximum annual premiums of $651.51 and $912.11 for employees and employers, respectively. The rate for the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) is slightly higher than that of CPP at 5.4% with a maximum annual contribution of $2,797.20 in 2017.
  • I recently learned that the CRA has made it more difficult to contact a CPP/EI Ruling agent by phone to ask questions beforehand, so be warned that you may not find it helpful to call the 1-800-959-5525 number provided in the article. I would still recommend trying if you have any questions – they may change this policy if they get enough complaints about it.
  • The caps-acsp-officials@googlegroups.com email address is now defunct. To contact the Executive Board please email communications@caps-acsp.ca.

For a full listing of the types of benefits offered through Employment Insurance and links to the details for each benefit program, please follow this link.