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The Black Hole

Retroactive pension as a postdoc? Apply now!

It is sad that highly-qualified, highly-educated scientific researchers need to worry about pleading their case to have a national pension contribution.


Some of the biggest historic discussions in our column that get Canadian postdoctoral fellows in a rage are those around the taxation situation in Canada. It seems that postdoctoral fellows just can’t win – employee or trainee? – either way, the chips rarely fall well for the postdoctoral fellow. Today’s rather brief post is more of a public service message to remind postdoctoral fellows that now is the time to submit a claim to be considered an employee rather than a trainee. As Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars (CAPS) Chair Joe Sparling points out: “it may not be the best choice for every person…  exercise due diligence and ensure that you are making an informed decision before you proceed.”

Since there are only 10 days before the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) deadline, I thought it would be potentially useful to postdocs to provide a list of previous posts on these and related issues and would strongly encourage a read of Dr. Sparling’s post on the CAPS website. CAPS exists to support postdocs, so if you plan to engage with the CRA on this matter, do not hesitate to get in touch with them, especially if you are an externally-funded postdoc (e.g., a fellowship from abroad or a CIHR/NSERC funded fellow) and want to make the case.

The most useful high level summary posts are below and will hopefully help postdoctoral fellows trying to navigate the pros and cons of applying to get employment insurance (EI) and on the Canadian pension plan (CPP):

One thing that I think is important to note is that someone does need to pay for this, and Dr. Sparling rightly mentions that you may as well risk annoying your administrators and/or supervisor in the process of completing this application. It saddens me that highly qualified, highly educated scientific researchers need to worry about pleading their case to have a national pension contribution – their time would be much better spent doing the research they are paid to do. Universities, granting agencies and senior administrators need to sort these kinds of problems out with the highest priority in order to avoid such huge wastes of time and energy in their researchers. Treat people fairly and they’ll typically return the favour many times over.

If you have any stories about your experience, please do share them so others can learn – CAPS is doing a great job trying to collate these and advocate for improvements across the country, but they need to know the facts from as wide an array of people as possible in order to act with a national voice. Good luck to all of those who apply for a CPP/EI ruling – see the link below:


David Kent
Dr. David Kent is a principal investigator at the York Biomedical Research Institute at the University of York, York, UK. He trained at Western University and the University of British Columbia before spending 10 years at the University of Cambridge, UK where he ran his research group until 2019. His laboratory's research focuses on the fundamental biology of blood stem cells and how changes in their regulation lead to cancers. David has a long history of public engagement and outreach including the creation of The Black Hole in 2009.
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