Policy on professional support in return-to-work: Occupational health professionals' experiences in a Canadian setting

Karin Maiwald*, Agnes Meershoek, Angelique de Rijk, Frans J. N. Nijhuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: In Canada and other countries, sickness-based absences among workers is an economic and sociological problem. Return-to-work (RTW) policy developed by both employer and worker' representatives (that is, bipartite policy) is preferred to tackle this problem. OBJECTIVE: The intent was to examine how this bipartite agreed-upon RTW policy works from the perspective of occupational health professionals (those who deliver RTW services to workers with temporary or permanent disabilities) in a public healthcare organization in Canada. METHODS: In-depth interviews were held with 9 occupational health professionals and transcribed verbatim. A qualitative, social constructivist, analysis was completed. RESULTS: The occupational health professionals experienced four main problems: 1) timing and content of physicians' medical advice cannot be trusted as a basis for RTW plans; 2) legal status of the plans and thus needing workers' consent and managers' approval can create tension, conflict and delays; 3) limited input and thus little fruitful inference in transdisciplinary meetings at the workplace; and yet 4) the professionals can be called to account for plans. CONCLUSIONS: Bipartite representation in developing RTW policy does not entirely delete bottlenecks in executing the policy. Occupational health professionals should be offered more influence and their professionalism needs to be enhanced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-156
JournalWORK-A Journal of Prevention Assessment & Rehabilitation
Volume53
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • Sickness absence
  • return-to-work policy
  • discretionary space
  • professionals' perspective
  • implementation

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