Working and earning while on Ontario Works
Find out about the employment services that are part of the Ontario Works program to help you find and keep a job. Learn what is required of you, how income affects your financial assistance and how to report it.
On this page Skip this page navigation
To be eligible for Ontario Works, you and adult members of your family must take part in approved activities that will help you find and keep a job.
Together with your Ontario Works caseworker, you will develop an individual plan that is focused on improving your skills towards finding and keeping a job.
The plan is updated regularly when you complete activities or begin new ones.
As you search for work or start working you must report your earnings monthly, even if you don’t earn anything in a month.
In locations where Ontario Works does not provide employment services, Employment Ontario can help you get the training, skills, and experience you need to find and keep a job.
Help finding and preparing for a job
While on Ontario Works, you will have access to activities focused on improving your skills towards finding and keeping a job. Ontario Works can give you practical help to prepare for and find a job by:
- working with you to determine what you need to become employed
- helping you develop a plan based on your skills, experience and circumstances
Here are some examples of the kinds of services we provide to help you find a job:
- workshops on looking for work, résumé writing, and preparing for an interview
- referrals to job counselling or training programs
- information on who's hiring
- access to basic education
- access to job banks, computers, internet and phones
There are programs available to help you:
- finish high school
- improve your language skills, and
- upgrade your reading, writing or math skills
Job-specific skills training
If you need special training or skills to do a job, we can get you the help you need to develop your skills.
Literacy screening and training
If it's hard for you to get or keep a job because you have trouble with reading, writing or math, we can help you get the education you need.
Learning, Earning and Parenting (LEAP)
If you're a young parent between the ages of 16 and 25, the LEAP program can give you the supports you need to:
- finish high school
- improve your parenting skills
- prepare for and find work so you can support your family
Rapid training opportunities
Learn new in-demand skills through rapid training opportunities.
Micro-credentials are short courses offered by postsecondary education institutions across the province and can be completed in as little as 12 weeks. Micro-credentials help provide in-demand skills in industries across the province, such as legal, healthcare, language training, information technology, and community support services.
Financial assistance through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to help with the cost of micro-credentials should not affect your financial assistance from Ontario Works.
Better Jobs Ontario
The Better Jobs Ontario program aims to help people rejoin the workforce quickly by providing in-demand skills. Training programs take 52 weeks or less to complete.
If you leave Ontario Works to participate in the program, you may still be eligible for health benefits.
When you're ready for a job, we can connect you with employers who are hiring, help you prepare for the interview and help with training for the job, if required.
A placement in a community agency can help you gain valuable experience. You can practice your skills, improve your confidence and get up-to-date job references and contacts.
While on Ontario Works, you and each eligible family member may receive money to help with costs when participating in activities to help you find and keep a job.
Contact your caseworker to discuss available benefits and to make sure you are eligible.
Reporting your earnings each month
It is important for you to tell us about any earnings you or your family members receive each month.
You can report your earnings in several ways. You can:
- sign in to MyBenefits
- phone the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system
- fill out and send back the Statement of Income form that you get with your Ontario Works cheque or direct bank deposit statement each month
The amount of money you are paid in your job or training program in one reporting period will be used to calculate the amount of money you receive from Ontario Works in the following month. We want to make sure that you receive the right amount. You can help us do that by reporting your income accurately and on time.
How earnings affect financial assistance
If you are receiving Ontario Works and earning money from a job or a training program, you may still get help from Ontario Works.
After you have been receiving Ontario Works for three months in a row, you can earn up to $200.00 a month without having your financial assistance reduced. For every $1.00 you earn after that, Ontario Works will deduct $0.50 from the amount of money you receive from us.
This will continue until you become financially independent and no longer need assistance. If you have a child, you can claim some of your child care costs. This means you can work while your child is being cared for. You may also continue to receive other benefits.
Reminder: You will need to submit a copy of your pay stubs and receipts when reporting your earnings and child care expenses.
While you are on Ontario Works, it is important for you to tell us about any earnings you and your family receive each month. The amount of money you are paid in your job or training program in one reporting period will be used to calculate the amount of money you receive from Ontario Works in the following month.
When you and your family work and earn money
Tell your caseworker about any money you and your family receive, including money:
- you or your spouse earn from work (a job or a training program)
- your children 18 years of age or older earn from a job
The money you and your family earn from work may reduce your financial assistance.
You must report all income, even if it is exempt.
What to report
Please report your gross pay and net pay.
Gross pay is the amount you get paid before all deductions like income tax, Employment Insurance (EI) and Canada Pension Plan (CPP).
Net pay is the amount you get paid after all deductions like income tax, EI and CPP.
If you receive tips or gratuities, you must include it in the net pay amount. If there are no deductions on your paystub/cheque, your net pay will be the same amount as your gross pay.
You must also report any deductions for:
- payments for child or spousal support owed
- other garnishments to repay a debt
We do not consider the earnings of your children if they are under 18 years of age. Their earnings are completely exempt.
If you or members of your family are enrolled full-time in high school or postsecondary education, your earnings or your family member’s earnings may be exempt.
How to report earnings
Use MyBenefits, the IVR system, or the Statement of Income form to report earnings from employment or training that you or your family members receive between the income reporting period (for example, January 16 to February 15). You must report it by the due date set by your Ontario Works office.
Unless your caseworker has told you otherwise, you may:
- submit your paystubs and receipts through MyBenefits
- attach your paystubs and receipts to your Statement of Income, or
- keep your paystubs and receipts in case we ask to see them in the future
Your reporting due date is October 16.
You receive $250 between September 16 and October 15.
We will use the information you report to calculate how much money you will receive for your November financial assistance.
When you don’t earn anything in the month
If you or your family have no earnings to report this month from your employment or paid training program, report $0 as the gross pay and net pay sections when you report your income. You must still report to your local Ontario Works office by the due date.
Your payments and benefits may stop temporarily if you miss a reporting deadline.
If you are required to report your earnings monthly, and we don’t receive your report by the due date, we may not be able to calculate how much money you should receive at the beginning of the month and your payments and benefits may be put on hold.
Once you send your completed report to your local Ontario Works office, we can start sending your payments and benefits again if you still qualify for them.
When no longer working
If you or an adult family member stop working or attending a training program, you need to:
- tell your caseworker right away
- fill out the Statement of Income form that month, and include:
- when your job or training program ended
- the name of your employer or training program
- send the Statement of Income to your caseworker
You may be asked to provide verification that your job or training program has ended. For example, you may need to send in a copy of your Record of Employment or a letter from your employer.
If you have stopped working, you may be eligible for Employment Insurance. To find out more about Canada's Employment Insurance program, visit the federal government’s website at Canada.ca/EI.
How earnings are calculated to adjust financial assistance
If you are not attending high school or postsecondary school full-time, we look at your net monthly earnings. This is the money you earn from work minus your mandatory deductions, such as income tax, Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance contributions and union fees.
In the same way, we will consider any money earned by your spouse or children 18 years of age or older who are not attending high school or postsecondary school full time.
Business or self-employment income
You need to tell your caseworker about money you and your family receive, including money earned from running a business (self-employment).
When you earn money from running your own business, you can claim some of the business expenses. Under the rules of Ontario Works, your profit is the money you earn from your business minus approved business expenses.
The profits you and your family earn are considered income and may reduce your financial assistance.
After you have been receiving Ontario Works for three months in a row, you or any member of your family can earn up to $200 a month without having your financial assistance reduced.
Half of your net profits above $200 are exempt — this means half of your profits above $200 do not affect your eligibility or the amount of money you get for financial assistance.
You can also claim some of your child care as deductions from your profits before they reduce your financial assistance.
What you need to report to your caseworker
You and your adult family members need to report:
- the money you earn from running a business
- your business expenses
- your child care
Your caseworker can tell you how to report this information.
Your caseworker can help you figure out how your profits affect your financial assistance.
We do not consider the profits of dependents under 18 years of age. Their profits are completely exempt.
If you or members of your family are enrolled full-time in high school or an approved postsecondary institution, an exemption may apply to you. If you qualify, your profits are exempt, but you still need to tell us about your earnings each month.
Claiming business expenses
Here are some examples of business expenses that you can claim for deduction:
- tools and equipment
- bookkeeping and legal fees
- advertising and business cards
- rent for your place of business (does not include rent for your home)
You cannot claim all of the business expenses that may be allowed under the federal and provincial income tax laws.
Here are some examples of expenses you cannot claim under Ontario Works:
- wages for employees
- gifts and entertainment
- business losses
- depreciation on business assets
Your caseworker can help you figure out which business expenses Ontario Works allows.
Profits from self-employment and running a business
You are responsible for reporting all of the revenue (gross income) from your business and approved expenses. We deduct expenses from gross income to determine your profit (net income). If you have child care expenses, these are deducted from your profit.
After you have been receiving Ontario Works for three months in a row, you can make up to $200 profit per month without a reduction to your financial assistance. We apply this $200 earnings exemption to your monthly net profit.
We calculate half your monthly profits above $200. The other half is exempt.
We subtract this final amount from your monthly financial assistance.
Jane runs her own business. Last month she had a gross income of $800 from the business. She had $100 in business expenses. She had no childcare expenses. Before starting her business, she received $733 a month in financial assistance.
Start with Jane’s gross income from her business for the month:
Subtract allowable business expenses (- $100) to calculate net-profits for Ontario Works purposes.
$800 - $100 = $700
Subtract $200 from the monthly net profit, since the first $200 is fully exempt. Half (50%) of what is left will be exempt earnings.
$700 - $200 = $500
Calculate half (50%) of the $500.
50% x $500 = $250 (or 0.5 x $500 = $250)
Subtract 250 from financial assistance.
$733 - $250 = $483
Jane will receive $483 from Ontario Works financial assistance this month. Add this to her net profits of $700 and she will have $1,183 for this month.
Employment deductions for child care
Money or profit that you earn is considered income and may reduce the amount of financial assistance you receive each month.
However, Ontario Works lets you claim some of your child care costs as deductions from your earnings or profits before they reduce your financial assistance.
Deductions for child care costs
Every month that you report earnings, you can claim:
- the full cost of licensed child care from a provider licensed by the province to provide child care services, such as licensed daycare
- up to $600 per child for unlicensed (informal) child care, such as nannies and after-school programs
- the full cost of before-and after-school programs offered as part of full-day kindergarten
You cannot claim child care costs if either:
- the caregiver is a family member receiving financial assistance with you
- you can get child care funding from another source
Going to high school, university or college
You may qualify for an earnings exemption under Ontario Works if you are:
- earning money from work or from a business, and
- pursuing high school or postsecondary education and you have been receiving Ontario Works for three months in a row
While you are enrolled full time in high school or postsecondary school and continue to meet the eligibility requirements for Ontario Works:
- all your earnings are exempt, which means the earnings will not affect your eligibility or the amount you get for financial assistance
- you can save the money you earn to pay for your school costs without affecting your financial assistance
This means you can take full advantage of any increase to your earnings while you are enrolled in high school or postsecondary school.
If you are attending high school, your summer earnings are also exempt if you intend to return to school in the fall.
If you or members of your family are enrolled full-time in an approved postsecondary institution your earnings or your enrolled family members’ earnings are exempt when:
- you have been receiving Ontario Works for three months in a row
- you continue meet the requirements for Ontario Works eligibility
If you are in postsecondary school, the exemption applies to the four months preceding your attendance in postsecondary school. This is called the pre-study period. The exemption also applies while you are attending postsecondary school.
For example, if you are starting postsecondary education for the school year starting in September and ending in April, your pre-study period is May to August. Your earnings from May to April will be exempt.
You must still report earnings each month when you or members of your family are enrolled full time in high school or postsecondary school.
If you are planning to go to high school or postsecondary school, contact your caseworker for information about how the postsecondary earnings exemption applies.
Leaving Ontario Works
Getting a paying job
Ontario Works can help you and your family if you leave the program for a paying job. Talk to your case worker about:
- the Extended Health Benefit to help you and your family pay for some of your health costs if they are high or if you don’t get comparable health benefits from your employer
- getting support at your job, including help with expenses (such as safety boots)
Better Jobs Ontario program participation
- Ontario Works health benefits may continue to be available to help you and your family if you leave the program to participate in the Better Jobs Ontario program.
- talk to your case worker about the Extended Health Benefit to help you and your family pay for some of your health costs.