Episodic work capacity and barriers to employment
A study recently released by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation, and funded by Human Resources and Social Development Canada, found that persons with disabilities and those with intermittent work capacity share many of the same barriers to employment. For this reason, their work situations can be improved by providing access to similar resources, such as support services and employer practices.
People with intermittent, or episodic work capacity, have periods of good health interrupted by periods of illness or disability. For example, mental illness, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and HIV are included as reasons for episodic work capacity.
The study was informed by a multi-disciplinary literature review; focus groups with non-profit organizations servicing persons with episodic disabilities; as well as interviews and narratives by persons with episodic disabilities who are, or had been, employed. The data was collected between August of 2010 and March 2011.
The report identifies conditions that predict the success of securing and retaining employment for those with intermittent work capacity. They include:
- A robust labour market that offers a variety of meaningful jobs
- A compensation package that offers decent living wages and access to health benefits;
- Fulfilling, non-exploitive employment;
- Workplace policies, including support through Human Resources, that provide for appropriate disability accommodation;
- Flexible employers who understand disability and the challenges of episodic work capacity. They focus on getting the work done, rather than how it is done;
- Income assistance supports that are flexible to allow a person to move in and out of employment opportunities as their health permits. If income support rules are a disincentive to work due to the risk of losing social assistance, people are afraid to find employment;
- Financial supports for transportation, clothing, daycare and equipment;
- Access to individualized employment supports such as pre and post-employment counseling
The report also finds that the conditions discouraging success in the labour market were often absent in those that encouraged employment. The study broke these conditions into three categories: systemic, social/external, and personal.
The report concludes with five sets of recommendations that government, employers, unions and support persons can do to take action including: improving access to supports on the job; increasing access to more flexible income rules; broadening the range of employment supports offered; and changing the outcome-based funding model to align with workers’ realities.
See “Employee’s Perspectives on Intermittent Work Capacity: What Can Qualitative Research Tell Us in Ontario?” available at www.srdc.org.