Welfare in Canada

Single Mothers and Employability

October 1998


  1. In all jurisdictions, a single parent is deemed to be unemployable when he/she is unable to work for medical reasons or when he or she has a disabled dependent child living at home.
  2. A single parent may be required to participate in an appropriate program (e.g., family life education, parenting program) even where the parent is not considered employable because of the age of his or her child(ren).



Single parents are deemed to be employable unless they have a child under the age of two years. Policy 3550


Prince Edward Island

No specific regulation or policy concerning employability of single parents. Each case is assessed on its own merit.


Nova Scotia

The provincial Family Benefits program provides social assistance to households whose needs are deemed to be long-term in nature, so there are no provisions concerning reclassification of single parents as employable (i.e., because there is no employable category in the provincial program). However, in the referral process to the "Career Planning with Single Parents Program", single parents with dependent children older than six months are given preference over those with younger children. Policy 05-08-05

Under the Nova Scotia Social Assistance Program, municipalities provide social assistance to employable people and their dependants. Parents (single or otherwise) who have children under the age of two and no adequate child care are considered "Stream II", meaning they are clients who have "the potential to be employable within a 12-month period" and who require additional supports to employability. Policy 3-1-1

(NOTE: the majority of needy single-parent families in Nova Scotia receive assistance under the provincial program)


New Brunswick

No specific regulation or policy concerning employability of single parents. Each case is assessed on its own merit.



Since the 1996-97 welfare reforms, single mothers are reclassified as employable and their benefits drop by $100 a month if they choose not to participate in an employability enhancement measure when the youngest child qualifies for day care or kindergarten, starting with five-year-olds in September 1997 (then four-year-olds in September 1998). Child care is expanding each year to cover children one year younger until the year 2000. By then, the province expects to have enough day care spaces for children two years of age and up; as day care expands, the mothers of the children move into the employability mainstream. (Source: "Another Look at Welfare Reform").



The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) provides assistance to people who are unemployable for medical reasons and their dependants. ODSP does not cover employable people.

Section 27 of the Regulation under the Ontario Works Act allows the welfare administrator to exempt a client from participating in an employment measure for a number of reasons, including " sole support parent with at least one dependent child for whom publicly funded education is not available".


The provincial Employment and Income Assistance program provides assistance to people in long-term need and to all needy single parents and their dependants. In the case of an employable single parent, the client is notified of his/her employment obligations when the youngest child in the household turns six years of age. Policy C0-13-04

Section 13 the Municipal Assistance Regulation gives municipalities the right to require that all adult members (and dependants 16 years of age and over who are not in full-time attendance at school or in training) are meeting their obligation to secure employment. Municipalities can use discretion with respect to the reasonableness of such expectations given the circumstances of each case. Policy p.31

 NOTE: The majority of needy single-parent families in Manitoba are assisted under the Employment and Income Assistance program



Singe parents with children are expected to accept employment for which they are capable if such opportunities are available to them. Each case is assessed on its own merit. Policy 3-1-4(C)



One of the client categories of the Supports for Independence program is "Unavailable for Work/Training: Family Care Responsibilities". This category includes a client who is caring for a dependent child under six months. Policy SFI 02-02-03 p.3


British Columbia

Section 17 of the Income Assistance Regulation includes a single parent with at least one dependent child who is under seven years of age among the client groups that are exempt from employability/job search requirements.



An applicant who is taking care of one or more of his or her own children under the age of two years is not required to participate in employability measures, including job search. Yukon Social Assistance Regulation, section 5(3)


Northwest Territories

An employable applicant with dependants must accept employment and make use of the resources available to him or her. An applicant with dependants may be exempted from this requirement where undue hardship would result. Social Assistance Regulations, section 5(3)


Prepared by:

Gilles Séguin
Social Program Information and Analysis
Social Policy
October 30, 1998