Student Unpaid Work

Students often participate in unpaid work or internships either through formal placements arranged through a course or program, or through self-arranged internship on a volunteer basis. The following guides provide information on insurance coverage and requirements for students, mentors and staff placement coordinators at the University.

Insurance for students on unpaid work placements

Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) Student Unpaid Work Placements

MCU provides coverage for workplace injuries under one of two programs:

  • Placements with employers under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act are covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
  • For employers not covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, private insurance coverage is provided by MCU.

MCU coverage applies to all students in an unpaid placement that meet the eligibility criteria. If the Placement Employer has WSIB coverage for their own employees, the unpaid learner will have WSIB coverage through MCU. Please see MCU WSIB Q&A for updates related to COVID-19. If the Placement Employer does not have WSIB coverage for their own employees, the unpaid learner will have coverage under Chubb private insurance, still under MCU. Chubb insurance covers claims associated with accidents for students on unpaid placements. Chubb coverage does not include claims resulting from any infection, including COVID-19. The confirmation of whether or not the Placement Employer has WSIB coverage will be available to you once the Placement Employer completes and returns the Letter to Placement Employers.

MCU provides such coverage to encourage the participation of employers in providing unpaid work placements for Student Trainees ("learners") required as part of Ontario’s publicly assisted post-secondary education and training programs.

The MCU guidelines apply to students considered "learners" by the WSIB, who are placed by University of Waterloo faculties/departments with employers to obtain work skills and experience on unpaid training placements when:

  • The placement is authorized by a University faculty or department
  • The student participates, however minimally, in the activities of the placement employer's industry
  • The placement includes a formal assessment component

"Learners include university students on a training placement with an employer as a formal part of the course or program. However, university students who as part of their program do unpaid research for the university are not considered "learners" under the insurance policy." 

- Workplace Safety & Insurance Board

Faculties or departments arranging unpaid placements must have the placement organization and participating student complete the following forms:

In case of illness or injury, the post secondary student unpaid work placement insurance claim form must be completed and sent to the Safety Office and placement coordinator within 24 hours of the illness or injury.

To comply with MCU reporting requirements, faculties/departments are to complete the forms with the student before placement.

MCU data collection for students on unpaid work placements

MCU guidelines require universities to report statistics on unpaid work placements each term, therefore placement coordinators are required to submit statistics on all MCU-approved unpaid placements to the Safety Office at the end of each academic term. 

Ministry Guidelines for Unpaid Work Placements  - these guidelines are prepared by the Colleges and Universities Branches of the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to assist in the understanding and administration of workplace insurance for students on unpaid work placements.

For more information, contact:

  •   The placement coordinator in your faculty/department
  •   Co-operative Education,
  •   Safety Office, Kate Windsor ext. 35814

Non-MCU covered Unpaid Placements

Not all unpaid placements meet criteria for insurance coverage by Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU). Below are unpaid placements/internships which are not covered by MCU insurance.

  • Courses or programs that are not MCU-funded
  • Practicums for which there is no evaluation component
  • Unpaid co-op placements at UWaterloo
  • Unpaid placements at any Training Agency listed in Appendix A of the Ministry Guidelines
  • Grad students participating in field placements or site visits for the purposes of skill development
  • Students collecting data for research (where the student is not in the employ of the University)

For experiential learning opportunities approved by the University that do not meet MCU criteria, coverage is available for students enrolled at the University of Waterloo who are participating in unpaid placements that are not covered by MCU or WSIB. It does not cover students who volunteer their services for their own learning or work experience benefit or E-Co-op terms.

Limitations of Coverage for Students not covered under MCU

  • Coverage is not available for students absences related to COVID-19 as this is an exclusion under this policy.
  • Coverage is not provided for International students who are on work placement outside of Canada and such work placement occurs in the student’s Home Country.
  • Coverage is provided for International students who are on work placement outside of Canada and such work placement occurs in another country other than the student’s Home Country. In the event of a claim the international student must return to Canada to receive any benefits. Home Country means the country where the International student permanently resides.

To initiate a claim for injury or illness related to an unpaid placement that is not covered by MCU, the department must notify the Safety Office (Kate Windsor) and Finance (Jamie Mahony) with the incident information via email.