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A study examining how injured workers interpret and react to adverse effects from work injury and claims processes found that an improved understanding of unfairness in the system and better communication from employers and claims organizations can improve outcomes.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, conducted interviews with 36 injured workers finding that workers reacted in a number of ways and stages when faced with “procedural” unfairness: they were passive, they fought back, they quit pursuit of the claim, they quit their job, or they won or continued to fight.
“Feeling confused, angry, frustrated, unsupported, disappointed, determined, optimistic, and wary were common emotions,” according to the study, made public on Monday and published in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation in the summer.
The university sought “precarious workers,” or “those who earn low or inconsistent wages. Often, they are uncertain how to access work compensation programs or are reluctant to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. The types of injustices faced by workers in the study included being laid off during a claim, receiving inadequate modified work or medical attention, employer claim suppression and unresponsive claim adjudicators.”
The study concluded that “identifying unfairness and its emotional, behavioral, and material effects on workers is important to understand implications for compensation systems” and that “understanding and recognizing unfairness can equip employers, legal representatives, compensation boards, and physicians, to address and prevent it, and provide worker resources.”
Policy changes can ensure accountability and consequences to unfairness, the study found.