This section is an excerpt from the Ontario Works Act, 1997 prescribed by the Province of Ontario.

Ontario Works Act

Purpose of Act

1. The purpose of this Act is to establish a program that,

(a) recognizes individual responsibility and promotes self reliance through employment;

(b) provides temporary financial assistance to those most in need while they satisfy obligations to become and stay employed;

(c) effectively serves people needing assistance; and

(d) is accountable to the taxpayers of Ontario.

Part 1

Eligibility for and provision of assistance


3. There are two forms of assistance under this Act: employment assistance and basic financial assistance.

Employment Assistance

4. Employment assistance is assistance to help a person to become and stay employed and includes,

(a) community participation; and

(b) other employment measures, as prescribed.

Basic Financial Assistance

5. Basic financial assistance includes,

(a) income assistance provided for purposes of basic needs and shelter;

(b) benefits; and

(c) emergency assistance.

Who receives employment assistance

6. Employment assistance may be provided for,

(a) a recipient or a dependent;

(b) a person eligible to receive income support under the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997 or a dependent; and

(c) members of a prescribed class of persons.

Who receives income assistance

7. (1) Income assistance shall be provided in accordance with the regulations to persons who satisfy all conditions of eligibility under this Act and the regulations.

Who are the beneficiaries

(2) Income assistance shall be provided for the benefit of the eligible person and his or her dependants.

Who receives emergency assistance

9. Emergency assistance may be provided in accordance with the regulation to or for the benefit of a person who meets the prescribed conditions.

Ontario Works Regulations

Participation in Employment Assistance

3. A person who fails to comply with the conditions of eligibility regarding employment assistance that apply to the person is not eligible for income assistance.

Enquiry into circumstances Re Basic Financial Assistance

22. In determining the eligibility of an applicant who applies for basic financial assistance, the administrator shall make or cause to be made an enquiry into the living conditions and the financial, employment and other circumstances of the members of the benefit unit.

Employment Assistance

26. Employment assistance includes community participation and the following employment measures:

(1) Job search.

(2) Job search support services.

(2.1) A literacy screening questionnaire approved by the Director.

(2.2) A literacy assessment, a literacy training program, or both.

(3) Other basic education and job-specific skills training.

(4) Employment placement.

(5) An education or training program approved by the administrator.

(6) A self-employment activity approved by the administrator.

(7) Supports to self-employment.

(8) A screening test for substance addiction approved by the Director.

(8.1) A program for the assessment of substance addiction, the treatment of substance addiction, or both.

(9) Participation by a person in a program of activities approved by the administrator that will assist the person with the following:

(i) The successful completion of a high school diploma.

(ii) The development of employment-related skills.

(iii) The further development of the person’s parenting skills.

(10) Attending an employment information session required by the administrator.

Part VI

Calculation of assistance

General rule

40. (1) The amount of income assistance for a benefit unit shall be calculated on a monthly basis by determining the budgetary requirements of the benefit unit in accordance with sections 41 to 44.1, reducing that amount in accordance with sections 45 to 47.2 and subtracting from that amount the income of the benefit unit, determined in accordance with sections 48 to 54.

(2) Despite subsection (1), the budgetary requirements for a recipient in the month in which falls the recipient’s effective date for eligibility, as determined by the administrator under section 25 of the Act,

(a) with respect to shelter, shall be deemed to be the lesser of,

(i) the amount the administrator has determined for one full month’s shelter cost, and

(ii) the amount of the recipient’s actual shelter costs that remain unpaid on the effective date; and

(b) with respect to basic needs, shall be prorated based on the number of days remaining in the month beginning with the effective date.

General budgetary requirements

41. (1) The budgetary requirements for an applicant or recipient to whom sections 43 and 44 do not apply shall be equal to the sum of the following amounts:

1. The amount payable for basic needs determined in accordance with the following Table:

Basic Needs Rate Table
No. of dependants
other than a spouse
18 years or older
0-17 years
Recipient Recipient
and spouse
0 0 0 $343 $494
1 0 1 $360 $494
1 1 0 $623 $652
2 0 2 $360 $494
2 1 1 $623 $652
2 2 0 $781 $826
3 0 3 $360 $494
3 1 2 $623 $652
3 2 1 $781 $826
3 3 0 $956 $1001

Note: For each additional dependant: add $175 if the dependant is 18 years of age or older, or $0 if the dependant is 0-17 years of age.


3. The amount payable for the cost of shelter calculated under section 42.

4. For the month in which an approved health professional confirms that a member of the benefit unit requires a special diet because of a medical condition set out in Schedule 1 to Ontario Regulation 564/05 (Prescribed Policy Statements) made under the Act and specifies the medical condition and for each succeeding month, up to and including the month in which the administrator requires reconfirmation of the requirement for a special diet, an amount that is the lesser of, for each member of the benefit unit,

(i) the sum of the amounts determined by the administrator in accordance with Schedule 1 to Ontario Regulation 564/05, and

(ii) 250.

5. A monthly amount for personal needs due to advanced age equal to $44 with respect to each member of the benefit unit who has attained the age of 65 years.

6. For the month in which an approved health professional confirms that a member of the benefit unit is pregnant and for each succeeding month up to and including the month in which the pregnancy ends, and subsequently, if the member of the benefit unit is breast-feeding, for each succeeding month up to and including the month in which the infant is 12 months of age, a nutritional allowance equal to,

(i) $50, if an approved health professional confirms that the person requires a non-dairy diet, or

(ii) $40, otherwise.


42. (1) In this section,

“shelter” means the cost for a dwelling place used as a principal residence with respect to any of the following:

1. Rent, other than amounts paid for parking and cable.

2. Principal and interest on a mortgage or loan incurred to purchase the dwelling place or to make repairs that the administrator determines are necessary in order for the property to continue to be used as a dwelling place.

3. Occupancy costs paid under an agreement to purchase the dwelling place.

4. Taxes.

5. Premiums for an insurance policy with respect to the dwelling place or its contents.

6. Reasonable and necessary payments, approved by the administrator, for the preservation, maintenance and use of the dwelling place.

7. Common expenses required to be contributed for a condominium unit or a co-operative housing unit except that portion of the common expenses allocated to the cost of energy for heat.

8. The following utilities, if they are not included in rent or common expenses:

i. An energy source used for household purposes other than for heat.

ii. Water and sewage.

iii. Rental of a furnace and a hot water heater.

9. Rent under a land lease.

10. The cost of energy for heat.

(2) The following rules apply for calculating the cost of shelter:

1. Subject to section 45, determine the actual cost payable for shelter under subsection (1).

2. Determine the maximum amount payable for shelter in accordance with the following Table:

Shelter Allowance
Benefit unit size Maximum monthly shelter allowance
1 $390
2 $642
3 $697
4 $756
5 $815
6 or more $844

3. Subject to paragraph 4, the amount payable for shelter shall be the lesser of the amount determined under paragraph 1 and the maximum amount determined under paragraph 2.

4. If the cost of energy for heat exceeds the maximum amount payable for shelter under paragraph 2, the cost payable for shelter shall be the cost of energy for heat.

5. If an applicant or a recipient is a tenant of an authority or agency that provides low rental housing accommodation on behalf of Canada, Ontario or a municipality, shelter does not include that portion of the rent for which the applicant or recipient is liable with respect to a person living in that rental accommodation who is not a member of the benefit unit.


The delivery agent has a responsibility to provide basic financial and employment assistance to people who are in need and who agree to participate in steps to prepare for and obtain employment.

Financial Assistance

Financial assistance is calculated on a monthly basis by determining the budgetary requirements of the benefit unit and taking into consideration any chargeable income, including deemed income.

Basic Needs is a mandatory item of financial assistance and may be granted to an applicant or participant not living in a board and lodging situation to offset the costs of the following items:

  • food
  • clothing
  • personal needs; and
  • non-shelter needs.

The amount is based on the number of persons in the benefit unit, relationship and the ages of the dependants.

Shelter Allowance is a mandatory item of financial assistance, which has a maximum monthly amount based on family size. Shelter Allowance may be issued to cover the costs of:

  • rent
  • loan and mortgage payments (principal and interest)
  • agreement for sale
  • taxes
  • insurance premiums for the dwelling and contents
  • maintenance fees for a condominium
  • common expenses for a co-operative or condominium (except if expense is allocated to the cost of energy for heat)
  • utilities
  • fuel
  • water and sewage
  • payments approved by the Manager, Social Services for the preservation of the dwelling place where considered to be reasonable and necessary in relation to the safety and well being of the client.

Cable costs will be included in calculating the Shelter Allowance, when they are a part of the security system and a mandatory rental component of the unit, for all rental situations. For clients who live with roommates, the Shelter Allowance will reflect their actual share of the total shelter costs up to the maximum Shelter Allowance. However, the shelter cost declared by each roommate cannot exceed the total monthly shelter costs for the residence. Clients are responsible for providing verification from the landlord regarding the total shelter costs and their share. In some cases it may be necessary to contact the landlord or rental agent to obtain a breakdown of the rental costs.

When home heating costs are separate from other shelter costs, a person may receive a Shelter Allowance based on total accommodation cost including utilities and fuel costs or actual fuel costs. Refer to Energy for Heat (Fuel).

An applicant or participant may be eligible for other budgetary requirements:

In addition, monthly drug and health coverage is proved. If the applicant is eligible for basic financial assistance, mandatory items can be provided. Principles of fairness and equity will guide access to discretionary, non-mandatory items for eligible clients.

The caseworker will determine OW entitlement by determining budgetary requirements and taking into consideration any chargeable income, including deemed income.

For budgetary requirements in different situations, refer to:

Employment Assistance

The applicant and the caseworker will work together to develop an agreed upon plan of specific activities from the range of available OW activities.

The Participation Agreement (PA) acts as a form of contract with client outlining his or her participation requirements and acknowledgement of the same. The agreement is tailored for each individual and, as the applicant proceeds along his/her employment plan, can be amended if circumstances change.