Barriers to Return-to-Work for Linguistic Minorities in Ontario: An Analysis of Narratives from Appeal Decisions
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PURPOSE: Previous research has shown that linguistic minorities have inferior workers' compensation experiences and outcomes; however little information exists on the structural barriers they face in relation to return-to-work (RTW). We sought to address this gap by describing barriers to RTW for linguistic minorities in Ontario using narratives from appeal decisions. METHODS: We examined decisions by the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal. We searched the full text of decisions rendered between October 1, 2010 and September 30, 2011 for the keyword "English". A total of 378 decisions were generated. After eliminating decisions that did not involve linguistic minorities we retained half (189) for analysis. We summarized the issues around language for each decision and identified broad themes across decisions. RESULTS: We found that linguistic minorities' limitations with regards to communication and power left them vulnerable to abuse, incomprehension and misperception by employers, care providers and adjudicators. In addition, specific RTW policies and practices failed to properly consider or mitigate their lack of English proficiency. These interpersonal and structural barriers negatively impacted linguistic minorities' eligibility to benefits and services and the appropriateness thereof, as well as their eventual return to work. CONCLUSIONS: Our research highlights the need to move beyond efforts to improve the linguistic competence of compensation boards to target the structural factors that impede equal access at every stage of the process.
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