About the Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy (CRWDP)
February 4, 2014
Why is a research centre on work disability policy needed?
- Research shows that unemployment and underemployment are associated with poorer health. Continued attachment to work in the face of a temporary or long-term work disability fosters social inclusion, retains talent and provides individuals with an income. Yet today’s disability policy system is not supporting this attachment to work as well as it could. Work disability policy needs to adapt to a changing labour market, and to changing work and health environments.
- Work disability occurs when a person is unable to find, remain at or return to work due to a health condition or impairment. Taking into account all forms of disability—whether acute or chronic, temporary or episodic, physical or mental, coming early in life or late, work-related or otherwise—work disability is likely to touch most people at some point in their lives.
- The current disability policy system in Canada was built over several decades, with different parts designed to meet different needs. This has resulted in a fragmented system of largely uncoordinated parts (see the backgrounder on Canada’s current disability support system in this package). Conflicting and out-of-date requirements across disability support programs mean people are shuffled between programs and can fall through the cracks.
- The nature of work has changed. The long-term, full-time jobs that predominantly characterized the labour market for which the current system was built are increasingly being replaced by part-time, temporary and/or casual work. As a result, parts of the working-age population are not supported very well by the current system if they fall ill, get injured, or have a chronic or episodic disability.
- The nature of the workforce has also changed. An aging population means chronic and episodic disabilities are on the increase, and people with these types of illnesses often struggle to find accommodation or access support.
How will this new research centre help address these issues?
- The Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy (CRWDP) will lay the foundations for a national, evidence-informed, coordinated approach to supporting people with work disabilities in Canada.
- The centre’s overall objective is to identify how people, when disabled, can be better retained and integrated into the Canadian labour market.
- The ultimate goals of the centre’s research program are to improve public policy that fosters paid labour-market engagement of people with disabilities, and to establish the field of work disability policy in Canadian universities.
- The centre is unique in that it bridges the divide between workers’ compensation programs, social security programs such as Canada/Quebec Pension Plan-Disability (CPP-D or QPP-D) and Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits (EI-SB), employer short- and long-term disability benefit programs, and other work disability support programs.
- The CRWDP mandate is to:
- provide a forum for within- and cross-provincial and national dialogue on challenges and opportunities for improving the Canadian work disability policy system;
- identify problems and challenges associated with program coordination and complexity;
- identify relevant and favourable alternative approaches to system design and service provision through select comparisons with countries and small-scale trials;
- mobilize knowledge developed within and outside of the centre in order to inform policy; and
- build capacity for research and knowledge mobilization on the topic of work disability policy and labour-market engagement of individuals with disabilities.
What does the centre mean by ‘work disability policy’?
- By ‘work disability policy,’ the centre is referring to policy related to any federal, provincial or territorial program in Canada that shapes income security and labour-market engagement for work-disabled individuals. This includes workers’ compensation, Canada and Quebec Pension Plan Disability, social assistance for people with disabilities, disability tax credits, Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits, veterans’ benefits, various private-sector disability benefit plans, motor vehicle accident insurance, and compensation for victims of crime.
- The centre includes employers in the disability policy system because employers play an important role in shaping opportunities for work-disabled individuals and also have specific obligations to do so under some laws and programs.
Who is funding the research centre?
- CWRDP is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) through a seven-year, $2.8-million grant that runs from 2013 to 2020.
- SSHRC is the federal research-funding agency that promotes and supports post-secondary-based research and training in the humanities and social sciences. By focusing on developing talent, generating insights and forging connections across campuses and communities, SSHRC strategically supports world-leading initiatives that reflect a commitment to ensuring a better future for Canada and the world.
Who is running the research centre?
- CWRDP’s funding is being administered by McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.
- The Centre’s national headquarters are physically located at the Institute for Work & Health in Toronto.
- There are also regional offices in British Columbia at Simon Fraser University, in Ontario at York University, in Quebec at Laval University and in Newfoundland and Labrador at Memorial University.
- The CRWDP is being co-led nationally by Emile Tompa and Ellen MacEachen, senior scientists at the Institute for Work & Health, and associate professors at McMaster University and the University of Toronto.
- In British Columbia, the centre is being co-led by Mieke Koehoorn, a professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, and John Calvert, an associate professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University.
- In Ontario, the centre is being co-led by Linn Holness, director of the Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease at St. Michael's Hospital, and Marcia Rioux, director of the York Institute for Health Research at York University.
- In Quebec, the centre is being co-led by Ysabel Provencher, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Laval University, and Marie-José Durand, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Sherbrooke.
- In Newfoundland and Labrador, the centre is being co-led by Barb Neis, co-director of the SafetyNet Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research at Memorial University, and Stephen Bornstein, director of the Centre of Applied Health Research at Memorial University.
- CRWDP is like a new ‘mini-university’ because it brings together academics and partners from across Canada—all dedicated to the issue of work disability policy.
- There are 50 academic researchers based at universities and research institutes across the country.
- There are 46 partner organizations, which include community organizations, organized labour, employers, disability support program providers, and research institutions.
- Our centre’s research institution partners include: the Faculty of Social Sciences, DeGroote School of Business, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis and the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University (the host institution); Institute for Work & Health; Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University; School of Population and Public Health at University of British Columbia; Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences; York Institute for Health Research at York University; Caledon Institute of Social Policy; Dalla Lana School of Public Health at University of Toronto; Centre for Research on Inner City Health and the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital; Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation and Social Integration (CIRRIS) and the Chair in Occupational Health and Safety Management at Laval University; Charles LeMoyne Hospital Research Centre at the University of Sherbrooke; Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center at the University of Montreal; and Safety Net Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research at Memorial University.