Postdoctoral Association at Western

Frequently Asked Questions

If you think of additional questions and answers, please let us know.

What is the difference between a PDA and PDF?

According to Western, there are two types of postdoctoral scholars: Postdoctoral Fellows (PDFs) and Postdoctoral Associates (PDAs). PDFs are considered independent contractors while PDAs are considered employees of the University.

When becoming a Postdoctoral Scholar at Western, you should make yourself aware of the advantages and disadvantages of being a PDA or PDF. This decision will affect how you will be claiming your taxes as well as access to government services such as CPP, EI, and how you can determine vacation time..

For more detailed information, check out this page at the SGPS.

Note that Postdoctoral Scholars who are funded directly by a granting agency and do not receive payment through the Western Human Resources system are not eligible for employment status.

Additional information can be found via Western's Human Resources Page.

Who is unionized?

On August 24, 2016, Western University and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) reached a settlement during hearings before the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Following the settlement, the votes cast on December 8, 2015 regarding whether Post-Doctoral Fellows at Western should join Public Service Alliance of Canada Local 610 were counted. The result was in favour of joining PSAC Local 610. Exact details about PDF eligibility to be a part of the union are still being disseminated; the Ontario Labour Relations Board will now issue a certificate to commence the process for bargaining for a first collective agreement. Questions and requests for further information should be directed to Dave Blocker ( or Conan Masterson (

According to the university, PDAs, or Postdoctoral Associates, are unionized and represented by PSAC Ontario.

PAW is a community for both PDAs (employees) and PDFs (self employed), unionized or not. PAW is not involved with union disputes.

Our mission is to improve the postdoctoral experience outside of issues concerning employment status at Western. Although we believe that it is important for you to have all the information you need to choose to between becoming a PDA or PDF, we will not advocate either choice. If you have a concerns or questions about the union, information can be found on the PSAC Ontario website.

Update: October, 2016

Although PAW has no affiliation with the union organization PSAC (Public Service Alliance of Canada), we do consider ourselves to be an information resource for all postdocs. Since some of us (Postdoctoral Associates) are union members, we wish to be able to direct your union-related questions appropriately. For this reason, PAW is looking for a PDA or PDF to serve as a union liason. Contact us if you're interested

Where can I get more information on filing my taxes as a postdoctoral scholar?

Current Postdoctoral Scholars/Income Tax Reporting

Canadian taxes are usually filed by April 30. Further information can be obtained at the Canada Revenue Agency. Please note that PAW cannot provide specific advice as claiming taxes varies case by case, especially for international postdocs (see below).

Nonetheless, here are a few online Canadian Tax Calculators to help you determine how much you might need to be saving:

You may want to refer to Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars's (CAPS) for further information.

If you have any questions, please contact PAW's Tax Information Representative.

You may also wish to contact:

Ryan Devereux, CA, MBA Tax Manager, BDO Canada LLP
252 Pall Mall Street, Suite 201
London, Ontario, N6A 5P6
Tel: 519 672 8940 | Fax 519 672 5562

Where can I get more information on filing my taxes as an international postdoctoral scholar?

As an international postdoc, you may also need to pay taxes in your home country. Some of the considerations to keep in mind include:

Are you considered as residents of Canada for tax purposes (not related to their immigration status)?

Are you considered as residents in your country (for tax purposes) while they are living in Canada?

Does Canada have a tax agreement with your country? If there is a tax agreement, you may not be double-taxed, depending on the agreement (USA has an agreement for example).

When you arrived in Canada, and whether or not you had income prior to that may affect the credits you may be eligible for.

As an international postdoc, please consider this;general information on income taxes along with dates for income tax information sessions.

Specific questions can be directed to:

Fabiana Tepedino
IESC Programs Coordinator
International and Exchange Student Centre
The University of Western Ontario
2nd floor of the International and Graduate Affairs Building
Phone: 519-661-2111 ext. 80359

What courses are offered to postdocs?

Current Postdoctoral Scholars/Professional Development

As a postdoctoral scholar you have access to courses and services offered to both graduate students and faculty at the university.

You may found some career development resources from:

Our Calendar of Events (on main page) lists some of the courses offered by these programs.

Where can I get information about employment opportunities?

When PAW receives an advertisement that may be of relevance to you, these will posted on our website. In addition, you can find other links to employment opportunities at Graduate Studies - Postdoctoral Scholars.

Alternatively, postdocs should take the initiative to look at associations within your discipline, ask around the department about employment opportunities.

What should be on my contract?

You might want to consider using the contract present on the Human Resources page.

Depending on whether you are an employee (ie. postdoctoral associate) or self employed (ie. postdoctoral fellow), there are differences in what can be present in your contract. Note that contracts for PDFs will not mention vacation time because this type of postdoc is considered an independent contractor. Some of the regulations are found in the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA)'s guide.

In either case, we recommend that you discuss questions or concerns with your supervisor before you sign your contract such that both of you understand your expectations and obligations before any issues arise.

What is Western's policy on Intellectual property?

Information about intellectual property can be found at Research Western

If you are interested in the learning more about Intellectual property, visit Western Intellectual Property Association.

Where can I get information about grants?

Current/Funding Opportunities

Postdoctoral scholars can secure funding from fellowship programs or external granting agencies or may be offered funding from their faculty mentors grant or research resources.

Note that there are also External Scholarships Competitions coordinated by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) at Western

SGPS also hosts information sessions on several of these competitions.

What are my options for getting a health plan? Dental plan?

Current Postdoctoral Scholars/Health Plans

Current Postdoctoral Scholars/Health Services

Postdoctoral Scholars may opt-in either the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) health plan or the Alumni Western Health and Dental Plan. Note that you do NOT have to be UWO alumni to register for the Alumni Western plan.

Further information is also available on our website Health Plans.

As a postdoctoral scholar you have access to the UWO's Staff/Faculty Health Services:

UCC Rm 25 (lower level)
Fax: 519.661.3824
Phone: 519.661.2047
Hours: Mon-Fri: 8:30am-4pm

You will need to register by filling out the Registration Form and returning it to the Staff/Faculty Family Practice Clinic.

I am an international postdoc- what do I need to do if I want to go on vacation or have my family visit me?

As an international postdoc, you may wish to contact the Community Legal Services at Western Law. Some of their many free services offered to UWO postdoctoral scholars include help with immigration issues.

What is the procedure if I have an accident at work? What are Western's or my liabilities?

For more information visit UWO's Occupational Health and Safety.

Inform yourself of the different safety training sessions you might need to attend and what you need to do to report accidents or incidents.

What do I need to do when I'm completing my postdoc at Western?

For some information concerning the steps you should accomplish before you leave, visit the SGPS website.