The beginnings of official gender neutrality came into Ontario’s workers’ compensation system in 1982 with Bill 205, updating the long-standing term “workmen’s compensation”. At that time women made up 40% of the workforce, and the Bill reflected growing recognition among a male-oriented Compensation Board of women as workers rather than survivors and widows. Today women have taken up leadership roles in the injured workers’ movement as activists for reform. They share experiences, knowledge and empathy through peer support groups; and participate in and help drive the research agenda investigating women’s work health issues.
Yet, as for injured women workers elsewhere in the world, there is still a way to go. Women, especially immigrant women, continue to be over-represented in precarious employment (Law Commission Reform of Ontario, 2012; PEPSO Survey, 2015). There continues to be a wage gap and higher levels of poverty, making women particularly vulnerable to Board practices such as deeming. While the “dearth of research” (Lippel, 2012) into hazards associated with women’s work has been partially addressed, there remains a need for further gender-sensitive research into outstanding issues, particularly in the area of mental health and musculoskeletal disorders. The dual burden of many injured women as both workers and caregivers, the stigmatization and social biases on women’s roles that can impact claims decision-making, remain issues of concern.
Our wish this International Women’s Day is that we celebrate the progress of women’s rights, without losing sight of all the work that continues to be needed. We invite women injured workers in the Toronto area to join our Women of Inspiration support group, which meets the third Friday of every month at 815 Danforth Ave, suite 411.
Messing, Karen. 2015 Mar. The Health of Female Workers: Is Science Still One-Eyed? Presentation to the ETUI Conference on Women’s Health and Work, Brussels)
While research into women workers’ health has come a long way since 1990, this presentation highlights areas and questions outstanding that need more gendered research, such as the effect of work on mental health, RSIs and other conditions considered to be associated primarily with jobs of women and other low-status groups.
Maher, JaneMaree et al. 2015. “Mothers Caring Through Injury: How Can We Understand the Dual Burden of Caregivers’ Recovery?” Journal of Family Studies, 21(1): 72-86
The authors make the case that, in addition to quantitative data on injury and employment type, qualitative research into women’s experiences of dealing with their own recovery and with childcare obligations is vital to developing policy that effectively addresses injured women workers’ needs and their return to work.
NESRI. 2015 Fall. “Workers’ Comp Bias against Women.” Workers’ Comp Hub Newsletter
Cautionary recap of sexist practices in workers’ compensation and an (unsuccessful) California law reform initiative. The proposed law attempted to address gender discrimination throughout the medical evaluation process, since benefits were being reduced by treating pregnancy, menopause, and osteoporosis as contributing causes of injury or illness, even when there is no evidence to do so. The article also discusses more broadly widespread gender disparities compounded by race and immigration status. – (See also BC case before the Supreme Court on judicial review of Workers’ Compensation Appeals
Wong, Imelda S. et al. 2015. “Work-injury Absence and Compensation among Partnered and Lone Mothers and Fathers.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 57(8): 960-969.
Using data from the annual Canadian Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID), this study on family status found being a lone mother was significantly associated with the risk of work-injury absence; mothers were half as likely as fathers to receive workers’ compensation benefits (which, authors state, may be attributed to gender differences in work experiences).
Premji, Stephanie & Wayne Lewchuk. 2014. “Racialized and Gendered Disparities in Occupational Exposures among Chinese and White Workers in Toronto.” Ethnicity and Health, 19(5): 512-528.
Study looks at disparities in hazardous employment characteristics and working conditions among Chinese and white workers in Toronto. Authors conclude “discrimination is far more prevalent among Chinese than among whites and may explain their disproportionate exposure to other hazards.” These disparities were more pronounced in women.
Morro, Maria Mercedes Sapico. 2011. Injured Immigrant Women Workers Entangled in Compensation Policy. Hamilton: McMaster University. School of Graduate Studies
Thesis discusses the struggles of women employed in precarious and low-paying jobs who become even more marginalized after occupational injury when not able to obtain just compensation from the WSIB.
Storey, Robert. 2009. “From Invisible to Equality? Women Workers and the Gendering of Workers’ Compensation in Ontario, 1900-2005”. Labour/Le Travail: 75–106.
Paper looks at how Ontario’s workers’ comp system has operated in ways that systematically disadvantage women injured workers. Although legislation may have addressed formal equality, for women injured workers this has been too often undermined by adjudicators’ attitudes in decision-making.