Working as a contractor for co-op credit

A prospective 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, it's good to know the differences between these types of jobs and what the implications are in terms of your responsibility. The information on this page is a good starting point, but we encourage you to explore the links for further information. 

NOTE: 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 as to whether you should enter into work agreements as an independent contractor or as an employee. It is up to you to decide after weighing the various considerations.
  • UVic does not review individual student agreements with employers where students are working as independent contractors; it is your responsibility to seek legal or other professional advice if needed.
  • If UVic knows that a position being posted in the Co-op and Career portal requires the successful applicant to be an independent contractor, we will include a disclaimer on the posting that explains this. 
  • You are responsible for understanding the implications and deciding whether to apply for or to accept a position as an independent contractor.

Will the position qualify as a co-op work term?

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

Most importantly, 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 and 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 on the job posting. You will need to check the details yourself, both in the job posting and during the interview if you are selected, to decide whether or not you want to apply and/or accept the role.

For positions found outside the Co-op and Career portal: Please follow the process for a self-found position

What should you consider if you're looking at postings for independent contractors?

  • There are legal and tax implications related to being hired as an independent contractor as opposed to an employee. You may want to connect with the UVic Law Centre as a source of legal advice.
  • An independent contractor is self-employed and serves the client (the employer) through the contractor's own business. This status is distinct from that of an employee, who provides services to an employer as part of the employer’s business.
    • Registering a business name is only required if you want to advertise using a business name and/or open a bank account in the business name. If you are running the operation purely in your name you do not need to register a business name.
    • International students must have a co-op work permit to work in Canada and this permit does not restrict them from being employed as independent contractors. International students are strongly encouraged to talk to their co-op coordinator before accepting an offer for co-op employment as an independent contractor. 
  • Independent contractors and their clients negotiate the terms of a working relationship, whereas employees are hired according to the employer’s terms, which are subject to employment standards of the province where the work is being done.

What's the difference between working as an 'employee' and as an 'independent contractor'? 

 

Working as an employee

Working as an 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 fixed period of time.

Control

The employer specifies when, where and how work is performed. The more a company has the right to control 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 company's 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 to others in the organization, or project-specific.

Supervision, training and 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 employment agreement.

Should be addressed in contract.  See UVic’s IP policy here.

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 should you ask your prospective employers (clients)?

Ask about work term deliverables to make sure that your contract meets the work term criteria. This includes:

  • 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 work space provided?
  • Is there a preferred work schedule?

Resources about working as an independent contractor in Canada

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