Spanning continents and time-zones, researchers Agnieszka Kosky (Toronto) and Beth Kilgour (joining the meeting via Skype from Melbourne) shared their findings recently at the third Bancroft Institute research and discussion series held October 31st at the University of Toronto. Their project, conducted jointly with Donna McKenzie and Alex Collie of the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR), looked at the experiences and interactions of main players within the workers’ compensation system.
Friday’s presentation focused on the nature of interactions between injured workers and insurers (case managers) revealed by the literature review, and how these interactions hinder or help recovery. The panel discussion and questions from the floor which followed made it clear that the common experiences (system disorganization, questioned legitimacy, adversarial relations, multiple medical assessments……) documented by the study were all too familiar, as were the harmful effects on the injured workers’ mental health, social life, employment and finances. An instance of a positive interaction gave a glimpse into how a properly functioning workers’ compensation system focusing on restitution and recovery could provide a different and better outcome for injured workers.
Another recent study by Australian researchers, led by Sarah Pollock, examines interactions from the perspective of long-term injured workers and the psychological consequences. “Filling the dark spot: fifteen injured workers shine a light on the workers compensation system to improve it for others” (2014) focuses more narrowly on the Victorian WorkCover Authority but its lessons on the need to treat injured workers with dignity and humanity, to reduce mental distress and encourage peer support are universally applicable.