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Important information for students volunteering or working as essential workers

Students are encouraged to make an informed decision based on list of considerations
Category:From the Provost and Vice-President, Academic
April 09, 2020
A nurse wearing protective goggles, face mask and hair covering

Students are encouraged to exercise caution and make informed decisions when considering volunteer or paid roles at this time to keep themselves as safe as possible. Photo credit: EVG Photos from Pexels.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all credit-bearing experiential learning opportunities, with few exceptions, have shifted to remote delivery where possible, or have been cancelled until further notice. As a university dedicated to experiential learning, we understand that this has been a disappointing development for many of our students.  

We recognize that this is a very stressful time for students and many of you have been asking questions about placements, volunteering or doing paid work as essential workers.  At the same time, we know that there have been calls for health-care students and students with technical skills to volunteer or take paid work in essential roles during this COVID-19 pandemic.  

We commend those students who are considering taking on such roles; we are not surprised that many in our caring community are looking for ways to give back. It is important that students understand that there is no expectation from Ryerson University that you participate in any of these volunteer or paid work roles outside of the scope of your academic work.  

Before you get involved in any volunteer or paid work as an essential worker during the COVID-19 please carefully consider the following:

  1. Academic credit cannot be provided for volunteer or paid work during COVID-19
    Students who engage in non-academic volunteer positions, or paid work as essential workers during COVID-19 undertake these opportunities independently of the university. Any hours engaging in this type of volunteer or paid essential work will not count for academic credit.
  2. Non-academic volunteer or paid work during COVID-19 is at the students’ own risk
    Students engaging in non-academic volunteer positions or paid work as essential workers would do so independent of the university. We trust that students engaging in these non-academic opportunities understand that they do so separate from their roles as our students and as such they would not be covered by the university’s insurance and/or any university-sponsored WSIB coverage, and will not receive the university’s financial or logistical support.
  3. Further considerations for non-academic volunteer or paid work during COVID-19
    Before taking on non-academic volunteer positions or paid work as an essential worker, we hope you also consider the special circumstances that may apply to you in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Factors to consider may include, but are not limited to:  
  • the likelihood that you may be exposed to COVID-19 during the course of your non-academic volunteering or paid work as an essential worker;
  • whether or not you will require, and be provided with, personal protective equipment to safely perform the tasks required by your volunteer or work position;
  • the extent to which you have a clear understanding of the scope of work you will be performing, and whether or not you have the expertise or will receive training to perform your duties safely. If you are already a registered health professional, make sure that you are not being asked to undertake a role outside of your scope of practice or your level of training. If necessary, please contact your professional college for more information;
  • the nature of the supervision assigned to you at the volunteer site or workplace you are considering, and whether or not the services, advice, or work you provide or perform will be supervised by someone with the appropriate expertise;
  • the health and personal injury benefits that may be available to you in the event that you become injured or ill while volunteering or working; and
  • whether or not you have insurance coverage for any harm or illness you cause to another person during the course of your volunteer or work position.    

I hope that this information is helpful to our students who are considering non-academic volunteer or paid work during COVID-19, independent from the university. Your health and well-being is our top priority.  

We believe that it is important for you to exercise caution and make informed decisions when considering volunteer or paid roles at this time, so that you keep yourself as safe as possible. As you navigate the employment journey during this period, a reminder that ongoing support is available to you through the university’s Career & Co-op Centre and TRSM’s Business Career Hub.

We appreciate that these are difficult times for all of us - I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that counselling and health services are available to you; students can access support at the Ryerson Centre for Student Development and Counselling.

If you have any questions, please be in touch with your specific faculty/program administrator. 


Michael Benarroch
Provost and Vice-President, Academic

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