Advocacy Corner

APSA advocates answer your questions about the AD 10 policies that govern your employment. From parental leave to working overtime to discipline meetings, we answer your workplace questions. Asking questions can be scary. That's why all questions are submitted anonymously


Advocacy Panelists


Advocacy Committee Chair

Arlette Stewart
Arlette Stewart

Advocacy Committee Member and current board member

Andrew Boden
Andrew Boden

APSA Executive Director



Mike Peragine
Mike Peragine

Advocacy Committee Member and executive board director



APSA Representation

My supervisor requested that I attend a meeting with HR regarding my performance. She said that I could bring along my APSA representative. Is it okay to bring along my friend, Dave? Dave is a member of APSA, and I've worked with him for years.

Typically such meetings are also known as an investigation meeting.  Either your supervisor, a Human Resources advisor or a Labour Relations advisor will ask you a series of questions regarding issues of concern, which you're required to answer. There may also be more than one meeting as the issues involved may be very complex. Regardless, the outcome of your meeting could be disciplinary.

It's very important to have representation that is both skilled and informed in labour relations issues and experienced at investigation meetings. While I am sure that you're friend, Dave is a great guy, he likely isn't familiar with APSA advocacy work and couldn't adequately represent you. An advocate with APSA would coach you prior to the meeting on how to comport yourself, support you through the process and ensure that your rights are defended throughout the investigation. Just as you would no more have Dave represent you in a legal matter, it's best to have a trained APSA advocate on your side in your workplace investigation.

Should the meeting go poorly for you (you receive an unpaid suspension, for example) and you wished to grieve the outcome, not having skilled APSA representation at the meeting could make your challenge of the discipline imposed more difficult. You and Dave may not have thought to take notes during the meeting, which both record the questions and your responses.  Without these, a challenge to the outcomes of the investigation is far less likely to succeed. You may also say things that could be deleterious to your SFU career.  A skilled APSA advocate ensures that these items and others are addressed in your favour.

I have an investigation meeting by HR, and I'm feeling pretty nervous about it. Should I call APSA?

Although there is nothing in the policies that obligate the University to have an APSA representative present, you can ask for representation. APSA believes it's in your best interest to ask for an APSA representative and have them present at your investigation.

Even though APSA is not a trade union, governed by the Labour Relations Code, it is considered a "near" trade union. So APSA has a duty of fair representation to its members, though one rooted in common law. This means that APSA must act in good faith when representing an employee in an investigation or grievance.

During the investigation meeting, you are likely to be nervous, vulnerable and unfamiliar with this process. An APSA advocate can ensure you receive due process as they are there to defend and represent your interests. APSA advocates are trained on how to proceed in any grievance or investigation meeting.

Discipline and Termination of Employment

Can the University force us to resign without due process?

I know a senior APSA member who was offered a buy out to resign. He had to sign a contract silencing him. 

No. There are ONLY four ways a members’ employment can be terminated outside of position eliminations. They are listed under AD 10.19 Discipline and Termination of Employment. Acting outside of these is acting outside of the AD10 Policies that APSA and the University negotiate and agree upon.

If you are contacted or offered incentives to resign, contact the APSA office, specifically the Executive Director, immediately before responding verbally or in writing.  

My supervisor is asking me to do duties that are not in my job description. And, my job description does not have a clause for "other duties as assigned". Do I need to do these tasks as assigned even if they aren't in my job description?

Your supervisor is responsible for managing the tasks appropriate to your position. Failing to do these tasks, even if they are not in your job description, could be considered insubordinate which is a form of gross misconduct. Gross misconduct can lead to immediate termination. The only exception is if the tasks you are directed to do could harm you or others. Refusal would be appropriate in those situations.

Perform the tasks you were directed to do and then meet and discuss your duties and job description with your supervisor to see if your job description needs rewriting or expanding?

If you and your supervisor don't come to an agreement, contact us to see if you have grounds for a complaint.

Can I be fired? What reasons would lead to instant termination?

There are four instances where the University could terminate a member's employment, outlined in AD10.19 Discipline and Termination of Employment. Note that all these cases are based on members’ activities and are within the control of a member to either work to correct the issue or avoid conduct that is unacceptable.

  1. Gross Misconduct
    May include, but is not limited to: absences without leave, assault, insubordination, negligence, unauthorized possession or use of University property, facilities or services.
  2. Unacceptable Conduct
    Action or inaction by an Employee that is incompatible with, or prejudicial to, the business of the University.
  3. Unsatisfactory Performance 
    The failure to satisfy expected standards of performance in the position. The disciplinary measures for this, along with unacceptable conduct, may include:
    1. oral warnings,
    2. written warnings,
    3. informal or formal Trial Periods,
    4. suspension,
    5. demotion,
    6. termination of employment.

  4. Non-Culpable Circumstances
    Situations where an Employee is unable to fulfill the requirements of the employment relationship because of circumstances or events over which he/she has no control. It should be mentioned that these cases are rare. In the ten years I’ve been with APSA, we haven’t had one case.  

Leaves with and without pay

What happens if I use up all my vacation time at the beginning of the year, but I leave the University halfway through the year?

If, for example, you use all 4 weeks of your vacation time in January and then choose to leave the University in July, you will be asked to repay half of your used vacation time.

Am I allowed to save up my vacation time?

Yes! You are allowed to save, or “roll over”, 1 years’ worth of vacation time. This means, if you only used 2 weeks of vacation in 2018, you would start 2019 with 6 weeks of vacation. However, you must use your rolled over vacation by the end of 2019, or the University will pay out the unused time.

APSA, however, discourages rolling over of vacation. It’s important for everyone to be able to get time away from work to refresh and recharge.

It’s also important that if you wish to roll over your vacation time, that you talk to your supervisor and let them know what your plans are. This allows your department to better plan for your longer than anticipated absence.

My department told me I was only allowed to roll over 5 vacation days each year, are there different rules for different departments?

No. Every APSA member is allowed to roll over up to 1 years’ worth of vacation time to the next year.

I’m about to give my notice to resign and I have unused vacation time. Can my department force me to use my vacation time instead of paying it out?

The policies (AD 10.08 – Section 5.05) state that vacation cannot be taken immediately before termination of employment, and that any earned vacation will be paid out on your final pay cheque.

My vacation time balance on is different than my own accounting of my vacation time. Who should I talk to?

It’s always important to keep track of your vacation time separately from myinfo just in case! If you find a discrepancy, talk to your supervisor.

Do I still earn vacation time when I’m away on maternity or parental leave?

Yes! And because you can roll over a full year’s worth of vacation time to the next year, this can allow you to have some extra vacation available to you as you transition back to work.

I used up all of my vacation time, but I’ve found I still need time off this year. Can I request a Leave without Pay?

Yes. Though be aware that departments are not required to grant leave without pay requests. You can read more about how to request a leave without pay in AD 10.08, section 11 Personal Leave without Pay.

I am a temporary employee, do I get vacation time?

Under most circumstances, temporary employees are paid 8% in lieu of vacation time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take time off. You can request time off the same way as you would for vacation, but it would just be classified as leave without pay. Your 8% in lieu should cover you for your time off.

I have a staff member who had a series of unfortunate events this year and used five days of compassionate leave earlier in the year. The staff member now needs additional time off. What are my options? Is there anything I can do to help?

The policy for compassionate leave (AD 10.08, article 6.01) states that staff can take five days of compassionate leave per-incident or scenario at the discretion of the supervisor. A supervisor can also grant up to two days as personal leave in the case of an emergency. These policies also apply to temporary APSA members. I would encourage you to discuss this with HR as well, so they are aware that you've granted the employee this leave.


My supervisor says that if we work thirty minutes of overtime per day, it is just a long workday and doesn't count towards any time in lieu. Is that correct?

Your question is a very good one and a very complicated one. We recently announced SFU has acknowledged that AD 10.13 Work Schedules Article 3.03 addressing extra hours worked (overtime) was inconsistent with the Employee Standard Act of BC. APSA will be actively involved in negotiating new language around extra hours of work (overtime) that is consistent with the law, applicable statutory provisions and the contractual provisions entered into between APSA and SFU. In short, a full and complete answer to your question will be the subject of another advocacy column.

I can say the following, however. Different departments have had different interpretations of APSA's AD 10.13 Work Schedules policy addressing extra hours worked (overtime). Many of these interpretations were not only incorrect but the interpretation of these policies by individual departments was found to be invalid as a result of our successful APSA grievance. Some department's work culture of just "getting the work done" may influence APSA members directly or indirectly when it comes to reporting overtime. Other members must work some overtime based on the nature of their work. These and other issues will be ironed out in our negotiations with the University over replacement language for AD 10.13 Work Schedules.

For now, we strongly advise you to record all hours worked in the recent past or that you will work that are over your 7.2 hours per day. We'll be able to give you more specific information once we've finalized new language with the University.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact APSA. Your call or email is confidential.

I'm working a significant amount of extra hours, can I get time off in lieu?

Have a proactive conversation with your supervising manager about working significant additional hours. This may require booking a formal meeting if your supervising manager is out of the office often. The discussion should clarify what the expectations are, how the additional hours of work will be tracked/monitored, what office coverage will look like and how the contribution will be recognized. If a reasonable compromise is not reached, the APSA office is available for support and advice.

Position Elimination

If my position is eliminated, would severance be based on my current part-time salary, even though I previously worked full-time?

In the event your position is eliminated, severance would be based on your years of service; one month’s salary for each full year of service to a maximum of 18 months’ salary, at your current salary (see AD 10.18 Elimination of Positions and Employment Continuity).

If you are working part-time when your position is eliminated, severance would be based on your part-time salary. 

For example:
Jim worked at SFU for ten years. The first nine years at full-time and the last year at part-time. His position is eliminated. He would receive 10 months of severance (one month for every year of service) based on his part-time salary, as he was working part-time when his position was eliminated. 

Is it enough if your boss doesn't like you or do they have to fully eliminate the position?

Your boss cannot fire you simply because they don’t like you. However, if you are under probation, “lack of suitability” is a valid reason to end employment before the end of probation (AD10.22). 

Outside of probation, to eliminate a position, managers or supervisors must follow proper procedure and justify the need to eliminate the position. APSA advocates attend all elimination meetings, to ensure the procedures, described in AD10.18 Elimination of Positions and Employment Continuity, are followed.

Position Evaluation

If my position has been upgraded, will I receive retro pay?

Yes. AD10.06 Position Evaluation and Salary Administration 7.02 b. states that if a position is re-evaluated, the effective date of the salary change will be the date of the request (when it is received by HR), or the date the member assumed the increased responsibility, whichever is later. 

For example, a job description is submitted for re-evaluation and received by Human Resources on Sept. 1. The evaluation is returned with an approved salary change on Dec. 1. The member would be retroactively paid from Sept. 1 to Dec. 1. 


My temporary position became continuing, yet I still have to do probation, why?

I did a job for almost a year at a very high level of efficiency and competency. I was the successful candidate for the continuing position, yet I still had to do a 6-month probation period, which I find unfair and unnecessary. 

APSA was heavily involved with creating AD 10.22 Probation Period, as it gives members the opportunity to adjust to a new position. We ensured the policy included section 4.06, which states that the Probationary Period may be reduced or waived, in writing, at the discretion of the hiring supervisor. This applies if you moved from a temporary position to a continuing one, or if you moved from another employee group and were appointed to a continuing position. 

We recommend asking your supervisor to have the probation waived.


Is it mandatory to serve the one month notice period or can the notice period be negotiated to be reduced in lieu of compensation?

Unfortunately, the notice period cannot be negotiated in lieu of compensation. Policy AD 10.20 Resignation, section 3.03, states written notice of resignation is required four weeks before date of resignation. 

That said, we know instances where members gave less than four weeks’ notice. A note is made on the member’s file in Human Resources, stating less than required notice was given.

Does the four weeks notice apply if I'm taking another position at SFU?

As you are not resigning from the the University, the written four weeks notice timeframe does not apply. However, it is at the discretion of your supervisors. The hiring supervisor and your previous supervisor may discuss what the required notice or new start date would be.

Policy AD 10.03 Posting and Filling of Positions section 5.06 states, "[r]easonable notice is expected when an Employee transfers from one department to another department within the University. The supervisors in the two departments should consult with each other and arrive at a mutually acceptable transfer date."



Tuition Waiver

Am I able to use a tuition waiver to take an SFU evening course while I am away on parental leave?

Yes, AD.10.12 Tuition Waiver policy states that members are eligible for Tuition Waiver if they are on an “approved leave of absence”. Under AD10.08 Leaves With and Without Pay, Parental Leave is considered an approved leave of absence.

Work Schedules

What's a Variable Scheduled Work Week?

The Variable Scheduled Work Week is when an employee works 72 hours in nine days, over two weeks. A common example is working an extra 48 minutes each day in order to be off work every other Friday. 

To apply, a proposal with supporting documentation should include:

  1. details and terms in writing such as work schedule, service levels, coverage, vacation and supervision of staff during absence (if applicable), and,
  2. how the proposed Variable Scheduled Work Week shall improve operation service and efficiency or, at the very least, maintain the same level of operational service and efficiency to the university community and members of the public.

Submit the proposal the department head or the appropriate vice president. They have 25 working days to reply. Details on the Variable Scheduled Work Week are contained in a Memorandum of Agreement, which is renewed on a regular basis. 

Can my APSA employee combine two 15 minute breaks to take a longer lunch hour?

You may be getting CUPE and APSA work schedules mixed up. APSA members do not have set breaks or lunchtimes. As is past practice, APSA members take breaks when needed and lunch when it works best. Members must also keep in mind the operational needs of their office when determining break times. Please advise your APSA staff of their options when deciding when to take lunch and for how long.