Non-White workers face more frequent, severe, and disabling occupational and non-occupational injuries and illnesses when compared to White workers. It is unclear whether the return-to-work (RTW) process following injury or illness differs according to race or ethnicity.
To determine racial and ethnic differences in the RTW process of workers with an occupational or non-occupational injury or illness.
A systematic review was conducted. Eight academic databases - Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Sociological Abstracts, ASSIA, ABI Inform, and Econ lit - were searched. Titles/abstracts and full texts of articles were reviewed for eligibility; relevant articles were appraised for methodological quality. A best evidence synthesis was applied to determine key findings and generate recommendations based on an assessment of the quality, quantity, and consistency of evidence.
15,289 articles were identified from which 19 studies met eligibility criteria and were appraised as medium-to-high methodological quality. Fifteen studies focused on workers with a non-occupational injury or illness and only four focused on workers with an occupational injury or illness. There was strong evidence indicating that non-White and racial/ethnic minority workers were less likely to RTW following a non-occupational injury or illness when compared to White or racial/ethnic majority workers.
Policy and programmatic attention should be directed towards addressing racism and discrimination faced by non-White and racial/ethnic minority workers in the RTW process. Our research also underscores the importance of enhancing the measurement and examination of race and ethnicity in the field of work disability management.