Who Should Visit a WorkBC Centre

WorkBC Employment Services are available to all unemployed or precariously employed British Columbians who are seeking employment and are legally eligible to work in BC. The program offers a range of services that support individuals looking for work to find and maintain a job and to improve employment readiness.  [en Français]

Any person in BC can access the self-serve resource area of WorkBC Centres. There are no program eligibility criteria or formal screening requirements for people to use the resource area, but you must complete an application using Online Employment Services.  The WorkBC Employment Services Contractor can support you in completing this application and in your job search related activities. Employers are also welcome to access self-serve resources relevant to hiring; training; retraining and developing human resource strategies.

In order to access any other WorkBC Employment Services, you must:

  • meet basic eligibility conditions for the program – be unemployed or precariously employed and legally eligible to work in BC, OR
  • qualify as an allowable exception to program eligibility requirements (as described below) and, for most services, be assessed as needing the service to successfully get a job. Some services have additional requirements.
Find Out if You Are Eligible

Basic Eligibility

In this section, you will learn how to become eligible for WorkBC Employment Services. You will find out about:

  • definitions that will help you decide if you meet the program criteria to be considered “unemployed” or “precariously employed”
  • exceptions that are sometimes allowed for those who do not meet the program definition of “unemployed” or “precariously employed”
  • three legal requirements you must meet to work in B.C.
  • Individuals with Social Insurance Numbers (SINs) that begin with a 9
  • Part-time workers
  • Full-time students
  • Youth
  • Active EI claimants receiving special Employment Insurance benefits
  • Client inclusion groups
  • Individuals with restrictions regarding where they can access services
  • Individuals who are imprisoned

What Does “Unemployed” Mean?

Unemployed” means you are not a full-time student as defined by the program, and you:

  • are not working; or
  • are working an average of fewer than twenty (20) hours per week, AND
    • are actively seeking full-time employment
  • are in receipt of a notice of imminent layoff; or
  • must leave your current occupation due to a medical reason; or
  • are a person with a disability working more than 20 hours per week but want to work more hours to achieve a higher level of self-sufficiency or are at risk of losing your employment because of your disability.

Full time students are not considered unemployed

What Does “Precariously Employed” Mean?

“Precariously employed” means that you do not meet the program definition of ‘Unemployed”, but you do meet at least one of the following criteria:

  1. You are one of the working poor who:
    1. Are working in unstable or unsustainable employment (including self-employment) as evidenced by:
      1. irregular hours of work (such as casual labour or on-call work); and/or
      2. unreliable remuneration (such as piece-work or commission); and
      3. earnings that cannot support and individual or their family; or
    2.  Are working, but who total employment (including self-employment) income is below the market basket measures;
  2. And/or you are an individual who:
    1. Is working in an industry or occupation that is likely to be replaced by technology or automation in the near future; or
    2. Is working in an occupation or profession that is clearly lower than your skills or qualifications and that provides no imminent prospect of advancement; or
    3. Could have just cause for leaving your current employment.

Client Inclusion Groups

If you have unique needs that require alternative arrangements for you to access employment services successfully, you are considered part of a specialized population for the purposes of the program.

Client inclusion groups include:

  • Indigenous peoples
  • Francophones
  • immigrants
  • people with disabilities
  • people who have multiple barriers to employment (addictions, mental health barriers, and/or unstable housing)
  • survivors of violence or abuse
  • youth
  • youth at risk

You may be associated with a client inclusion group and have no barriers to your ability to get work but simply need job-search or other supports. For others, this may not be the case; they may require specialized assessments and services designed specifically to meet their needs.

Employment Insurance (EI) Clients

You are considered an “Employment Insurance client” or “EI client” if you are unemployed and, when requesting services of the program, are either an active EI claimant or a recent EI claimant (also known as an EI Reachback client).

Active EI claimant:

You are considered an active EI claimant if you have established a claim for regular EI benefits. You must be available for and seeking work on a full-time basis as a condition of receiving EI. Service Canada will advise you of employment services available to support you in your job search, but it is up to you to undertake a job search that meets the requirements for ongoing EI eligibility. You may self-refer to WorkBC Employment Services if you choose to access program services.

Former EI claimant / Reachback clients:

You are considered a former EI claimant (Reachback client) if you established an EI claim within the past few years but are not currently receiving EI benefits and you do not have any job search obligations. As with active EI claimants, you may self-refer to WorkBC Employment Services to access program services.

Premiums Paid Eligible EI client:

You are considered a premiums paid eligible EI client if you have earned $2,000 or more in insurable earning in at least 5 of the last 10 calendar years and paid employee EI premiums on those earnings.   WorkBC Employment Services Contractors can help you determine if you meet these criteria.

If you are unemployed, you must apply for EI to determine if you are eligible for EI benefits. This will determine if you can be considered for services that require EI eligibility. If you are not eligible for EI, you will be eligible for alternative services.

See the Service Canada website for more information on EI eligibility. The ministry and its contractors are not authorized to provide advice or guidance related to EI policies or legislation. WorkBC Employment Services Contractors, however, are expected to be knowledgeable regarding basic EI eligibility and application processes and in supporting you, as needed, in accessing this type of information.

The ministry is responsible for three key processes related to EI claimants’ participation in WorkBC Employment Services:

  • The ministry verifies your EI client status for specific services requiring EI eligibility.
  • The ministry authorizes EI Section 25 referrals, in which an active EI claimant participates full-time in specific WorkBC Employment Services. In doing so, the ministry temporarily waives the claimant’s obligation to job search and allows them to continue to collect EI while participating in the service.

The ministry can, in very rare and exceptional circumstances, authorize individuals to quit their jobs to participate in WorkBC Employment Services.

BC Employment and Assistance (BCEA) Clients

The BC Employment and Assistance (BCEA) program assists British Columbians by helping people move from income assistance to sustainable employment, and by providing assistance to those who are unable to fully participate in the workforce.

BCEA clients may be formally referred to WorkBC Employment Services by the ministry or they may self-refer to the program.

Clients who are formally referred will be advised to schedule a Client Needs Assessment (CNA) with the WorkBC Employment Services Contractor in their catchment area within 10 days of the referral.

All BCEA clients may access the self-serve resource area of the WorkBC Employment Services Centres. Self-serve services can support you with your job search and assist you in meeting your employment goals.

Employment Plans with the Ministry

You may be required to have an employment plan with the ministry as a condition of your eligibility for BCEA program assistance. A component of your employment plan may include participating in WorkBC Employment Services.

If you are a BCEA client with employment related obligations, WorkBC Employment Services Contractors will work with you to support you in your job search and to develop action plans that are aligned with your employment plan.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding BCEA program services or your specific circumstances, please contact ministry staff directly to discuss your concerns.

General Clients

A “general client” is an unemployed individual who is neither an “EI client” nor a “BCEA client.”

If you are a general client, you can access most WorkBC Employment Services including case management, if needed.  But you are not eligible for some WorkBC services. You may, however, be eligible for alternative employment programming. If so, WorkBC Employment Services can support you in accessing alternative employment programming and funding as well as other needed community services.

As a general client, you will access WorkBC Employment Services by:

  • self-referral
  • the encouragement of another community or government organization
  • the encouragement of an employer, if you have been laid off or terminated

General clients with disabilities

General clients with disabilities can access WorkBC Employment Services as would other program clients with disabilities, except where services are restricted specifically to EI clients or BCEA clients.

All case-managed clients with disabilities who request employment-related disability program services or supports, or who are assessed as potentially needing them, must participate in a disability-related needs assessment (DRENA). The DRENA will confirm your employment-related disability needs and your eligibility for program services and supports that are targeted to meet these needs.

Please visit your local WorkBC Centre to find out more information.

Are There Any Exceptions?

Some exceptions are allowed for those who do not meet the program definition of “unemployed” or “precariously employed”.  If you have a disability, you may be eligible to have your case managed under WorkBC Employment Services.

Eligibility Exceptions

Individuals with 900 Series Social Insurance Numbers (SINs)

A SIN beginning with the number “9” indicates that the SIN holder is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and does not have the right to work in Canada without special permission.

If you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident (i.e. you hold a 900-series SIN), you may access WorkBC Employment Services Centre self-serve resource areas. You may also be eligible for WorkBC Employment Services if you are:

  • determined as a Convention refugee or protected person by the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) who is awaiting your official documents (i.e. certification, regular SIN, permanent resident status)
  • a person who had been working in Canada on a temporary work permit, who has now been granted permanent resident status but has not yet received a permanent SIN
  • a person granted permission to live and/or work in Canada by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and who has a work permit (IMM 1442) that does not specify an employer or other restriction that limits your ability to seek and accept work in Canada

Part-time workers

If you work an average of fewer than 20 hours per week, you meet the program definition of “unemployed” and are eligible for WorkBC Employment Services.   If your part-time work is unstable or unsustainable, you may meet the program definition of “precariously employed”.

Full-time students

You are defined as a full-time student, for the purposes of the program, when:

  • Is registered full-time at an educational institution during the current academic year; or
  • Was registered full-time at an educational institution during the previous or current academic year, and who intends to return to school in the upcoming academic year.

If you are a full-time secondary or post-secondary student, you are considered outside the labour force. You are therefore not considered to be unemployed unless you are eligible for an allowable exception. Students with a disability and Youth in and from Care are eligible to participate in WorkBC Employment Services in their last year of school (secondary or post-secondary).

All students can access WorkBC Employment Services Centre self-serve resource areas.


If you are aged 16 to 30 and are not a student, you are considered a “youth” for the purposes of the program. As explained above, youth under the age of 16 do not meet the legal school-leaving age in B.C. You are therefore not considered to be unemployed.

You can access services when your participation meets federal and provincial laws and the WorkBC Employment Services Contractor has confirmed that you are legally eligible to work in British Columbia.

Active EI Claimants Receiving Special Employment Insurance Benefits

If you are receiving temporary EI special benefits for a specific purpose (maternity, parental, sickness), you may not be considered unemployed or precariously employed for the purposes of the program.

However, individuals who were unemployed before receiving EI special benefits or do not have employment to return to, may be eligible for WorkBC Employment Services.

Individuals with Restrictions or Considerations Regarding Where They Can Access Services

You may have restrictions or safety-related considerations regarding where you can access services. These may include court-ordered restrictions related to geographic areas you must avoid (e.g. “Red Zone” areas) or restrictions for safety reasons for yourself or others (e.g. protecting your personal safety, restraining orders).

If you have unique needs that affect where you can comfortably, safely and legally access services, WorkBC Employment Services Contractors will make services available to you through alternative means.

Individuals Who Are Incarcerated

Outreach services may be available if you are:

  • incarcerated and near release; and
  • you will require employment services to find a job.

Where a contracted WorkBC Employment Service Contractor has a correctional facility in the area, outreach services will be provided under the terms of the WorkBC Employment Services contract.