Do immigrants experience poorer workplace disability outcomes than their Canadian-born counterparts?

Date posted: 
Thursday, November 12, 2015

Work and working environments have a major effect on population health. Prior research has shown that immigrant workers experience higher work injury rates and face more challenges recovering from work injury, when compared to their Canadian-born counterparts. However, no Canadian research has examined whether immigrant workers experience different work disability outcomes, such as time to full return to work, after work injury.

This is about to change with data access being approved for a project which will link administrative data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to injury claim data from WorkSafeBC to find out if immigrant- and Canadian-born workers in British Columbia have different disability outcomes for the same types of injuries. This is the first time these data have been linked and this project provides a unique opportunity to examine differences in workers’ compensation experiences between immigrant- and Canadian-born workers.

The study, by Niloufar Saffari, a student in the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health (SPPH), is supervised by Dr. Christopher McLeod, an associate professor at SPPH, and is part of a Master’s thesis.

“We hypothesize that immigrants will experience poorer disability outcomes, leading to worse health outcomes, compared to their Canadian-born counterparts in the same occupation and industry groups with the same types of injuries,” says Saffari.

“There are a number of factors which may affect immigrant workers and their experience of workers’ compensation systems,” Saffari explains. “New immigrants, with poor language skills and a lack of familiarity with the Canadian workers’ compensation system, face particular challenges after a work injury or illness. They may fear reporting an injury, if they think doing so will jeopardize their job. They may not know their rights and responsibilities, and they may have trouble accessing, understanding and navigating the compensation system.”

The study aims to identify and understand differences in the experiences of immigrant- and Canadian-born workers with the workers’ compensation system in order to help guide improvements in disability management policies and return-to-work programs. The results are expected to improve the physical and mental health of injured immigrant- and Canadian-born workers, and minimize lost work time and the associated costs to society.

The study is supported through funding from the Partnership for Work, Health and Safety, a research collaboration between UBC and WorkSafeBC.

Page last revised: November 12, 2015