A shout-out to all injured-worker support units for their strength and resilience.
First introduced to Canada in 1990, Family Day falls on the third Monday of February. Family Day was designed to reflect the values of support, home and belonging, as well as provide a holiday for busy workers to have some family time. On Family Day, the injured worker community would like to thank their families for their support, as well as recognize the adverse impact of an injury on the family unit.
As many injured workers know, the journey one takes when they are injured at work can be long, painful, and complex. During these times, family support can greatly encourage and help an injured worker in recovery. However, it is also observed that families coping with a member’s workplace injury can face difficult times. A study conducted by Kosny, Newman and Collie in 2018 examined this complex process. Their results highlighted the importance of family members’ support in the wellbeing of the injured worker by providing administrative, instrumental and emotional support. The study also illustrated that in circumstances where an injured worker has a prolonged and complex injury, the recovery and compensation process can have a major impact on the family. The study observed impacts such as increased workloads, role reversals, breaking down of marriages, changes in relationships with children, as well as financial and emotional strain from loss of income.
Another impact is observed by a joint study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in November 2015. Often when an injured worker is injured, the other members of the family are placed at a higher risk of injuries. The study found that family members of injured workers had 34 percent more fractures, sprains, joint dislocations and other musculoskeletal disorders in the three months following the occupational injury. These injuries occurred when other members provided care to the injured member or compensated for the lack of a member and carried out additional family chores.
Further, interlocking factors such as employment in precarious sectors and gender differences can impact a family’s situation after a workplace injury. A research team led by Dr. I. S. Wong in 2014 found that mothers were half as likely as fathers to receive workers’ compensation benefits, making some parental situations more vulnerable than others. Hence, the study concludes with a call for policy makers to identify equitable policies that could help workers sustain employment or return to work following an injury. Additionally, as precarious employment rises, Senthanar, MacEachen and Lippel in 2019 find that precariously employed injured workers felt caught between self-interested employers and disinterested workers’ compensation. The worker’s difficulties challenged the financial security of their family and affected their day-to-day normal routines. These findings show us how income, compensation and employment insecurity have ripple effects on workers and their families when they become injured.
An invaluable source of support
Amidst these struggles, the injured worker community has built support and resilience due to the strength of their family members and other support groups. Here we would like to recognize Kim Prince. When Kim’s husband suffered multiple workplace injuries, Kim advocated on his behalf, supported their family and even advocated for an injured worker support group in their area. The injured worker community has also created support groups, some of these here in Toronto such as Bright Lights, Women of Inspiration and Chinese Injured Workers. There are many more groups throughout Ontario – check the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Group Directory for one in your area.
In all instances where family members and support groups have helped injured workers, we observe the resilience of the injured worker and family and the push for a better compensation system. A better compensation system would be one such as Sir William Meredith proposed: “a workers’ compensation system wherein injured workers would not become a burden to their families or societies.”
So, to the injured worker community, Family Day is much more than a holiday. It is a day to remember the support of our family unit, whether biological family or our created community, that helps us during the journey to recovery and advocacy.
- Senthanar, Sonja, Ellen MacEachen & Katherine Lippel. 2019. “Return to Work and Ripple Effects on Family of Precariously Employed Injured Workers.” Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-019-09847-0
- Kosny, Agnisezka, Sharon Newman & Alex Collie. 2018. “Family Matters: Compensable Injury and the Effect on Family.” Disability and Rehabilitation 40: 935-944. https://doi.org/10.1080/09638288.2017.1283450
- Asfaw, Abay et al. 2015. “Musculoskeletal Disorders and Associated Healthcare Costs Among Family Members of Injured Workers.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine 58: 1205-1216 https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.22500
- Wong, Imelda S. et al. 2014. “Work‐Injury Absence and Compensation Among Partnered and Lone Mothers and Fathers.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine 57: 960-969. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.22351