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Contractor co-op

A potential co-op employer may ask if you'd be willing to work as an independent contractor rather than as a co-op employee. Before you answer, here's what to know.

  • The information provided here is not legal advice. Consult with your legal and tax experts before accepting a position as an independent contractor.
  • UVic does not take a position on whether you should enter into work agreements as an independent contractor or as an employee.
  • UVic does not review individual student agreements with employers where students are working as independent contractors. It's your responsibility to seek legal or other professional advice if needed.
  • You are responsible for understanding the implications and deciding whether to apply for or to accept a position as an independent contractor.

Does the position qualify for co-op credit?

Co-op work terms must meet UVic’s standard work term requirements, whether you're employed as an independent contractor or as an employee.

To qualify as a co-op placement, your job must:

  • be at least 12 weeks long (420 hours) within the university term
  • be paid work
  • provide you with a learning experience related to your academic program

Does UVic review independent contractor postings?

For positions found on UVic’s Co-op and Career portal: 

When we know that the employer plans to hire a student as an independent contractor, we will include a disclaimer about this in the Special Requirements section on the job posting.

You will need to check the details yourself, both in the job posting and during the interview, to decide whether you want to apply for and/or accept the role.

For other positions:

Please follow the same process as positions found on the portal. 


  • There are legal and tax implications related to being an independent contractor. Connect with the UVic Law Centre as a source of legal advice.
  • As an independent contractor, you are self-employed and serve the client (the employer) through your own business. This is different than being an employee, where you provide services to an employer as part of the employer’s business.
    • Registering a business name is only necessary if you want to advertise using a business name and/or open a bank account in the business name.
    • If you're an international student, you must have a co-op work permit to work in Canada, including as an independent contractor. Talk to your co-op coordinator before accepting an offer for co-op employment as an independent contractor.
  • As an independent contractor, you'll negotiate the terms of your working relationship. As an employee, you and the employer will follow the employment standards of the province where the work is being done.

Side-by-side comparison

  Employee Independent contractor
Method of work According to an employment agreement, usually with defined hours and dates, usually for an ongoing period. According to a contract or consulting agreement, usually for a defined project, with a fixed period of time.
Control The employer specifies when, where and how work is performed. The more a company has the right to control the performance of the work, the more likely the worker is an employee. The independent contractor usually specifies when, where and how work is performed. Independent contractors typically have a significant degree of autonomy in performing required work.
Insurance (1st party) As an employee, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation coverage under your employer’s plan. As an independent contractor, you may not be covered under your client's company plan. You can ask to be covered for the duration of your contract, or you can arrange your own insurance. In BC, contact WorkSafeBC about Personal Optional Protection.
Insurance (3rd party) As an employee, you may be insured by your employer’s commercial general and professional liability insurance for loss or damage arising from the work you’ve completed. As an independent contractor, you may not be insured by your client’s insurance program. You should investigate if you need commercial general and/or professional liability insurance to protect you from claims made against you for loss or damage you may have or are alleged to have caused.
Termination Subject to the provincial employment standards act, usually there is termination pay or notice of termination. If you are an independent contractor, your contract can be terminated without notice or pay in lieu. 
Type of work Usually similar to other employees in the organization. Different from others in the organization, or project-specific.
Supervision, training & tools Provided by employer. Licenses, permits and certificates are usually held by the employer.

Usually, the client company provides little or minimal supervision or training. If the contractor pays for tools or training, these expenses can be claimed as deductible expenses when filing taxes. Licenses, permits and certificates are usually held by an independent contractor.

Intellectual property Should be addressed in the employment agreement. Should be addressed in the contract. See UVic’s IP policy.
Exclusivity An employee’s ability to work for other companies or clients may be restricted. Independent contractors are typically free to provide services to other clients.

What to ask employers

  • Check that the work will include a minimum of 420 hours work over 12 to 16 weeks, within the university term.
  • Ensure there will be a supervisor and/or mentor to support your learning and working throughout the work term. This person will need to attend the mid-term work site visit by phone or in person.

Consider funding opportunities:

  • Is the employer (client) applying for wage subsidies or other government funding? They may not be aware that contract relationships are not eligible for federal Student Work Placement Program (SWPP) or Provincial Innovator Skills Initiative funding.

Other questions to ask:

  • Do you as the contractor need to provide proof of insurance?
  • Do you as the contractor need to provide a GST number? (Not required if you are a “small supplier”)
  • Do you as the contractor need to provide a business number?
  • Do you as the contractor need to provide invoices each month?
  • Is a workspace provided?
  • Is there a preferred work schedule?


The label "employee" or "contractor" does not determine what type of role it is. The following resources show the difference: