Self Employment

The Self Employment (SE) Program assists eligible unemployed individuals to create their own job that provides them with sustainable income through self employment.

Program Information

Program objective

The Self Employment Program provides entrepreneurial support and may also provide financial assistance to eligible unemployed individuals to assist them with the planning and start-up of their business.

Entrepreneurial support includes orientation, workshops, coaching, mentoring, and access to specific business training (some of which is mandatory) that will enable participants to develop and implement their business idea.

Eligibility Information

Individual eligibility

You may be eligible for participation in the Self Employment Program if all of the following are true for you.


  • Are unemployed.
  • Are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident legally entitled to work in Canada.
  • Are a resident of Nova Scotia.
  • Need to earn full-time employment income*.
  • Have attached to the labour force for a minimum of 24 months*.
  • Have a business idea.
  • Are LMDA eligible by meeting one of the following criteria:
    • You have a current Employment Insurance (EI) claim.
    • You have had an EI claim that ended within the last 60 months.
    • You have received benefits under the EI emergency response benefit within the previous 60 months.
    • You have been employed with gross insurable earnings of $2000 or higher annually, in at least 5 of the last 10 years.

* Full-time employment income is the wage rate that enables you to pay yourself from the income earned by your business activities for time that is no less than 35 hours per week, supports basic cost of living expenses, generates enough revenue that will support the costs of the business, and is equal to or no less than the current minimum wage rate.

* To be attached to the labor force means that over the last 24 months you have been one or a combination of the following:

  • Actively seeking employment;
  • Employed full-time;
  • Maintaining part-time employment while actively seeking full-time employment; and/or
  • Self-employed through a previous business. (Note: You cannot re-start this business under the SE Program.)

You will not be eligible for participation in the SE Program if you are one of the following:

  • Planning to enroll in an educational institution full-time.
  • A former participant in the Self Employment Program within the past 4 years.
  • Have already started your business.

Business idea eligibility

The Self-Employment Coordinator will assess whether your business idea is eligible under the program.

Participation Requirements and Financial Assistance

The SE Program has two streams:

Stream 1 – individuals who have not been able to find employment over a period of a minimum of 3 months.

You must have evidence and records of your comprehensive job search that clearly shows your job search efforts did not result in employment.

This stream provides:

  • entrepreneurial support;
  • if applicable, continued receipt of your Employment Insurance (EI) benefits for the remainder of your claim. (Note: the SE Program will not increase the number of weeks you will be paid EI benefits.);
  • financial assistance (a weekly living allowance) through a funding agreement with Employment Nova Scotia; and
  • financial assistance for all or part of the following costs related to participation (dependent care, disability needs, tuition costs, transportation, and accommodation).

Stream 2 – individuals who are unemployed, but do not wish to look for employment.

This stream provides:

  • entrepreneurial support, and
  • if applicable, continued receipt of your Employment Insurance (EI) benefits for the remainder of your claim (Note: The SE Program will not increase the number of weeks you will be paid EI benefits).

What to expect under the SE Program for both Stream 1 and Stream 2:

  • The program is 40 weeks in length.*
  • Full-time participation in the Self Employment Program is expected*, therefore approved participants must devote at least 35 hours per week to planning and starting their business.  
  • You must participate in and access entrepreneurial support from a Self Employment Coordinator and there are some mandatory training requirements.
  • Business ideas that have the potential to provide a full-time income* and an average hourly rate of earnings of minimum wage or more are supported under the program.
  • Monthly reporting of your self employment progress is required to participate in the program and to continue receiving financial assistance.

* If you are a person living with a disability(ies) that affect your ability to participate in the program full-time, you can participate in this program on a part-time basis and create a business that operates for less than 35 hours per week and may also have an extended program duration of up to a maximum of 52 weeks. An employment Case Manager will work with you to identify whether these accommodations and supports are appropriate for your circumstances.

What else do I need to know?

You can access the program by meeting with an employment service provider (Nova Scotia Works Centre, ISANS, or Pheonix) to have an assessment of your eligibility for the SE Program.

As part of the application process, it is necessary for you to complete an employment assessment and develop a Return-to-Work Action Plan with a Case Manager.

If you are eligible to participate in the Self Employment Program, your Case Manager will refer you to a Self Employment Coordinator for further assessment and entrepreneurial supports.

The Self Employment Coordinator will assess whether your business idea is eligible under the program.

If you and your self employment idea are eligible for the program, your Case Manager will assist you with preparing and submitting a program application to Employment Nova Scotia.

Employment Nova Scotia will review your application in their role as the administrator of the Self Employment Program in Nova Scotia.  If you are approved for program participation, you will enter into a funding agreement with the Nova Scotia Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration - Employment Nova Scotia.

Application Information

How do I apply?

Contact an employment service provider who will advise you on your options and help you with the Self Employment Program process.

Contact Information

If you have general program questions, contact:

Employment Nova Scotia
Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm