The Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities (OF) is a program offered by Employment and Social Development Canada to help individuals with disabilities enter the workforce.

Purpose of the Opportunities Fund

The goal of the OF, specifically the OF Wage Subsidy stream (OF-WS), is to improve employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Employers who are considering hiring someone with a disability may qualify for financial support. This not only helps small and medium-sized companies meet their staffing needs, but also helps individuals with disabilities find meaningful work and enhance their future employability.

How much funding is available?

The OF can provide up to a maximum of $13,500 towards the salary of someone with disabilities. The position being filled must be part of the employer’s regular business operations, and the total salary should be comparable to current wages for similar positions.

Employers should also be aware that the subsidy rate can change over the duration of the funding agreement, depending on the program terms and available funding.

Who can apply?

Funding through the OF is open to all industries in Canada. Eligible applicants include:

  • Businesses
  • Organizations (non-profit and for-profit)
  • Municipal governments
  • Provincial and territorial governments or agencies

What are the criteria for new hires?

To be eligible for a wage subsidy through the OF, candidates for hire (a.k.a. participants) must:

  • have a permanent physical or mental disability that limits daily activities
  • be unemployed (or working less than 20 hours per week)
  • be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
  • be legally entitled to work in Canada
  • be ineligible for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits
  • require assistance to find and obtain a job

Though all participants who meet the above criteria will be considered, the funding program does prioritize youths (age 15-30) with disabilities, employment in the private sector, and work placements with small to medium-sized employers (having less than 500 employees).

How do I apply for the OF?

As there are no submission deadlines for the OF Wage Subsidy stream, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is accepting applications on an ongoing basis.

The OF application has four parts; supporting documentation must also be attached. Refer to the Applicant Guide on the Government of Canada website for detailed, step-by-step instructions for filling out the application. When completed, you can submit the application online or by mail. You will then be notified in writing whether or not your application has been approved.

Final thought

If you’ve never considered hiring a person with disabilities before, maybe the Opportunities Fund will encourage you to do so. Not only will it allow these individuals to cultivate their skills and gain more independence, but it can also benefit your business in many ways. You’ll be able to expand your staff with decreased financial risk, access a pool of hard-working, eager employees, and ultimately, grow your business. On top of that, you’ll be supporting the program’s goals of inclusiveness and skill development.

Do you think your company is a good fit with the Opportunities Fund? Call ConnexFund for more information on how to apply for funding with this program.

ConnexFund specializes in grants and funding for innovative companies and start-ups with a focus on technology and manufacturing. Many Canadian businesses are aware that there is some free money available for them. But not so many know where to find it, how to access it and how to prepare a grant application that is successful. And this is exactly what ConnexFund does!