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The term placement encapsulates many types of experiences, including, academic internships, professional practicums, community-engaged learning and co-op. All placements should integrate theory and practice and provide students with practical experience in the workplace. Volunteer opportunities, observerships and field trips are not considered to be placements.
Paid Placements vs Unpaid Placements
Students on placements who are receiving wages from their placement employers are considered to be on paid placements and should be treated as any other worker employed by the placement employer. Students should have employee contracts with their employers and the responsibilities of the employer and the student should be clearly defined.
Students on placements receiving no funds from their placement employers or who are receiving stipends, honorariums or reimbursements are considered to be on unpaid placements. A placement agreement should be in place as it provides a detailed framework for the relationship between the University, placement site and student. Further documentation is required to secure workplace insurance and confirm the responsibilities of all parties. The requirements for unpaid placements are listed below.
Unpaid Placement Requirements
Placement agreements between the University and placement employers are necessary in order to provide both the University and its students, as well as the placement site, with clear expectations of rights and responsibilities while a student is engaged in unpaid work with a placement site as a condition of an academic program in order to obtain a degree from the University of Toronto. The latest template placement agreement is available on the Student Placement Portal.
The Student Declaration is an informational letter which provides an overview of workplace insurance coverage. The letter asks the student to confirm their understanding of their responsibilities and confirm that their personal information will be disclosed to Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) and WSIB or Chubb. The latest version of the Student Declaration can be found on the Student Placement Portal.
Letter to Placement Employer
The Letter to Placement Employer is a letter which informs the placement site of how students are covered by workplace insurance and asks that they confirm their responsibilities to create a safe working environment and inform the University of any workplace accident or injury. The latest version of the Letter to Placement Employer can be found on the Student Placement Portal.
Student Placement Portal
The Student Placement Portal is a resource for placement coordinators, it includes the placement agreement repository, templates and health & safety information. The Portal has been developed to provide guidance and support to the academic divisions to align their administrative processes with relevant legislation, policy and procedure that is related unpaid work integrated learning opportunities for students. For access to the Student Placement Portal please contact email@example.com.
Legislation & External Policies
Employment Standards Act
Student placements who are performing work under a program approved by the University fall under an exception under the Employment Standards Act.
Ontario Health and Safety Act
The Ontario Health and Safety Act’s definition of worker includes student trainees. Student trainees have the same rights under the OHSA as paid workers such as the right to know about hazards and to refuse unsafe work. Student trainees also have the same duties as a paid worker, such as wearing and using protective equipment and not doing anything that may harm or endanger themselves or others in the workplace.
Worplace Safety and Insurance Act
According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, learners on unpaid training placements with employers are unpaid trainees if both of the following conditions are met: the placement is authorized by a training agency, and the individual participates, however minimally, in the activities of the placement host’s industry. WSIB also clarifies that participating in the activities of the workplace includes job shadowing/twinning.
WSIB does not consider the following individuals student trainees;
- individuals who on their own initiative volunteer their services to an employer to develop marketable work skills;
- volunteers who offer their time or services for community or charitable purposes;
- individuals who are on the employer’s premises solely for the purposes of visiting or casual observation and who at no time participate in the activities of the placement employer’s industry;
- university and college students who as part of their program do unpaid research for the university or college and individuals who are not on placement but as part of the training program perform work on the training agency’s premises.
Ministry of Colleges and Universities
Ministry of Colleges and Universities will provide workplace insurance for registered students if the placement is a component of a degree program funded by MCU and WSIB allows the training agency to deem itself the student trainee’s employer.
The Ministry does not consider the following student trainees eligible for MCU coverage;
- Paid placements – The student is an employee of the placement site and should be covered by the placement site’s insurance as any of their employees.
- Placements which occur at the University of Toronto – The University is responsible for providing workplace insurance for students completing their placement on campus. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request student coverage.
- Placements in the country of primary residence of an international Student Trainee – A limitation of private workplace insurance policy, the placement site may extend their coverage for the student.
- Visiting students – The students home institution is responsible to ensuring their students have workplace insurance coverage.
International Students – Immigration
Placements, either paid or unpaid, constitute work. Students participating in placements must ensure that they are in line with immigration regulations. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure they have the correct authorization/permits to participate in a placement.
Summer Internships & Independent Placements
In situations where students secure opportunities which are independent of their academic studies, the relationship is solely between the student and their placement employer. The student should carefully read any internship agreement and understand the risks and responsibilities before agreeing to its terms.
Upon the student’s request, the University may provide a letter confirming enrolment to the employer. Unless the placement directly contributes to a student’s academic program, the University is not able to enter into an agreement with a placement employer or confirm workplace insurance coverage.
Please contact your Registrar to discuss what academic options may be available to you and how you may participate in an experiential learning opportunity.