1. Are EL students covered under the Employment Standards Act (ESA)? What responsibility does this entail for my business?

This is a common area of misconception: The Employment Standards Act (ESA) does not apply to most EL students. The ESA excludes individuals who perform work as part of a program approved by a university. This exclusion applies whether the student does or does not receive financial compensation.

As such, EL is not subject to the employment standards regime, which sets basic working conditions in Ontario for matters including minimum wages, statutory holidays, vacation pay, maximum hours of work, breaks and eating periods, and rights to unpaid leave and termination notice. However, it is best practice to treat EL students similar to your staff so that they are well integrated into the organization. 

Note: External organizations in federally regulated industries or sectors should refer to the Canada Labour Code.

2. Are EL students covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)? What responsibility does this entail for my business?

EL students are covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) whether they are paid or not.

In general, the OHSA provides EL students with:

  • The right to a safe workplace;
  • The right to be informed of potential dangers in the workplace; and
  • The right to refuse dangerous work.

You are also required to provide health and safety training to EL students.

Note: External organizations in federally regulated industries or sectors should refer to the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.

3. Will I need to pay premiums for an EL student under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA)?

As an EL placement host in Ontario, you are required to include paid EL students in your Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA).

Unpaid EL students are not required to be included in your WSIB coverage. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities provides separate coverage for unpaid EL students. If your EL partnership includes an unpaid position, you should speak with your university partner to ensure the student has completed the necessary paperwork.

4. What are the laws, regulations and policies related to human rights, diversity and equity that I should be familiar with? What responsibility does this entail for my business?

EL students in the province of Ontario are covered under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Canadian Human Rights Act applies to students in Ontario who are placed at external organizations in federally regulated industries.

These entail responsibilities to ensure inclusivity, accessibility and non-discriminatory placements. Visit the Human Rights, Accessibility and Equity section of this guide for more information.

5. How is intellectual property (IP) created during an EL placement treated? Who owns new creations developed during the placement?

IP considerations are a growing area of concern for university partners and external organizations. These matters should be discussed and included in your partnership agreement as well as any agreements you sign with the student.

In general, the inventor (in the case of patent law) or author (in the case of copyright law) is the initial owner of the IP in question unless an employment or IP assignment agreement is in place. However, many universities have institutional policies that require IP to be shared between the academic institution, external partner and students/researchers. It is important to clearly define how IP created during an EL opportunity will be treated; namely, whether the inventor or author retains ownership or whether the IP rights are assigned to your organization.

Disagreements over IP ownership and use can lead to costly disputes and litigation. You should discuss these matters with your university partner in advance to clarify the expectations of each party involved. The terms of any agreements should be made clear to the student and the student should not feel compelled to sign an agreement without understanding these terms. Failure to do so my affect the enforceability of the contract in the event of a dispute.

As examples, the University of Ottawa and Concordia University have policies about the treatment of IP for (graduate) student EL placements.

6. What are the IP implications of EL projects such as hackathons, in-class projects, and sponsored research?

You should work with your university partner to ensure an appropriate IP policy is in place for each type of EL. Each university will have its own institutional policies. You should be aware of these and negotiate IP provisions as part of your partnership agreement.

7. How will the university and/or student ensure confidentiality of information obtained through the EL placement? Are the university and/or students required to maintain confidentiality?

Your partnership agreement with the university and any separate agreement with the student should detail confidentiality and privacy of information matters.

For example, the OCAD U’s partnership agreement states that any confidential information disclosed in connection with the partnership will be “safeguarded with reasonable care” and that any such confidential information will “remain the property of the party disclosing.” Each party may request that all copies of confidential agreements are destroyed.

You can view a sample Confidentiality Agreement in the Templates and Examples section of this website. Your agreement may look different depending on your university partner, the EL format and what type of role/work you will be engaging the student in.

8. Can I require a student to sign a non-compete and/or non-disclosure agreement?

Many universities allow external organizations to sign separate agreements with the individual students. You should discuss this with your university partner to determine if non-compete, non-disclosure and/or confidentiality agreements are allowed to be required preconditions for an EL opportunity.

In general, such agreements should balance the needs of all parties involved. The primary goal of EL is to provide students with the opportunity to apply their academic training in real-world settings and contribute to their professional development.

Especially with respect to non-compete agreements, any agreements signed between an external organization and student should not unduly circumscribe the ability of the student to gain future employment opportunities in your industry or sector.   

9. We have offices outside of Ontario. Are there any regulations around international EL experiences? What about other provinces?

Your university partner will have policies around placement sites outside of Ontario and some will have dedicated contacts for facilitating this. However, many universities do not have the resources to assist with an EL placement in another province or country. You should discuss this possibility with your university partner early.

If your placement office is outside of the country you will need to ensure that the placement follows all applicable laws and regulations of the local government(s). This is a time-intensive process and you will need to account for a number of factors, including:

  • Local visa requirements (including work and/or study implications);
  • Travel requirements;
  • Local lodging and accommodations;
  • Travel insurance;
  • Travel risks;
  • Travel health and vaccinations; and
  • Local languages, customs and culture.

Placements outside of Ontario may also impact the financial support you are able to receive.

10. Can international students take part in EL placements? Can I hire an international student as part of an EL program?

The ability of an international student to take part in an EL program depends on the study permits they have obtained from the federal government. International students are able to participate in EL placements if they have obtained a co-op or intern work permit from the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

These permits are only valid for EL placements that are part of the student’s curriculum. In order to apply for a co-op or intern work permit the student must:

  • Have a valid (and separate) study permit;
  • The EL experience is required for the student to complete their program;
  • The students have a letter from the university confirming that the EL placement is needed to complete a component of their degree; and,
  • The EL placement is 50% or less of the total program of study.

International students completing English and/or French as a second language or general interest courses in preparation for another program are not able to apply for co-op or intern work permits.

In addition to working with your partner university’s EL or Career Services department, you should connect with the Office of International Students or equivalent to get further advice and support in navigating an international student EL partnership.

Do international students have the same legal rights/responsibilities as domestic students?

Provincial and/or federal labour laws apply to students participating in an EL placement on a work permit. In most cases, these will be the provincial laws and regulations except in cases where your organization operates in a federally regulated industry or sector.

Do I take on any responsibility for immigration-related paperwork?

In many cases, the international student is responsible for having completed the required documents in advance of entering the EL program.

In particular, international students are required to have a “job offer” in order to qualify for a co-op or intern work permit. Many universities will work with the student and provide an open-ended “job offer letter” for the purposes of the EL placement. Students are encouraged to apply for their permits upon entering the EL program. You should speak with your university partner and/or student to confirm they have a valid co-op or intern work permit.