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The Experiences of Workers Who Do Not Successfully Return to Work Following a Work-Related Injury

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A significant minority of injured workers experience challenges returning to work after a work-related injury. While factors that hinder return-to-work (RTW) are well documented, the consequences of failing to successfully RTW remain poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of injured workers who do not successfully RTW following a work-related injury. Using a qualitative research approach, 11 injured workers and four service providers were interviewed. A constant comparative approach was used to identify key themes across worker and service provider experiences. The findings capture the challenging RTW experiences of injured workers and describe wide ranging negative impacts on their lives.

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This webinar will highlight the prevalent and persistent nature of the ongoing financial, health, and social needs of injured workers that are often downloaded to other social support systems when workers’ compensation is no longer available. Beyond coordination between systems, there is a need to examine how the needs of this sub-group are being met, identify opportunities for innovation, and explore a better way forward.

Take-away messages

  • There is growing concerns about poverty among those who have sustained a work-related injury despite coverage and protection offered by workers’ compensation systems.
  • Cost-cutting agendas within employer-sponsored disability benefits can lead to reduced benefits for many Canadians with disabilities and result in downloading costs to publicly funded social assistance programs.
  • Policies and practices within workers’ compensation boards seem to contribute to professional deskilling, positioning injured workers for jobs that are unrelated to their skills and interests, and may not be available in the local job market.

Learning Outcomes

The experiences of injured workers who do not successfully return to work after a workplace injury
The prevalent and persistent nature of ongoing financial, health and social needs of injured workers
The work disability systems available to injured workers who are no longer receiving workers’ compensation but have not successfully returned to work


Rebecca Gewurtz
Dr. Rebecca Gewurtz holds a PhD from the University of Toronto and completed a collaborative program through the CHSRF/CIHR in Health Services and Policy Research. Dr. Gewurtz’ research focuses on work disability policy, income insecurity, and employment among people living with disabilities, with a focus on mental illness and other episodic disabilities. She has been examining the experiences of various stakeholders including people with disabilities, service providers, co-workers and employers as people with disabilities are hired and accommodated in diverse workplaces, as well as the impact and coordination of income security benefits. She has been involved in large partnership projects that include diverse community collaborators such as employers, non-profit social service organizations and government agencies. She has experience with participatory action research and co-designing solutions to complex workplace problems. Her recent work includes a focus on measuring accessibility, the experiences of people transitioning from homelessness to being housed, and the process of negotiating workplace accommodations. She has also been examining the impact of physical distancing policies associated with the COVID-19 pandemic on low-income households.

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