Return-to-work experiences in Ontario policing: injured but not broken

Publication type
Journal article
Van Eerd D, Le Pouésard M, Yanar B, Irvin E, Gignac MA, Jetha A, Morose T, Tompa E
Date published
2024 Jan 01
Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Open Access?

PURPOSE: Police officers and others working in police services are exposed to challenging and traumatic situations that can result in physical and/or psychological injuries requiring time off work. Safely returning to work post-injury is critical, yet little is known about current return-to-work (RTW) practices in police services. This study examines RTW practices and experiences in police services from the perspective of RTW personnel and workers with physical and/or psychological health conditions. METHODS: We used a purposive sampling approach to recruit sworn and civilian members from several police services in Ontario, Canada. The recruited members had experienced RTW either as a person in a RTW support role or as a worker with a work-related injury/illness. We conducted and transcribed interviews for analysis and used qualitative research methods to identify themes in the data. RESULTS: Five overarching themes emerged. Two pointed to the context and culture of police services and included matters related to RTW processes, injury/illness complexity, the hierarchical nature of police organizations, and a culture of stoicism and stigma. The remaining three themes pointed to the RTW processes of accommodation, communication and trust-building. They included issues related to recovery from injury/illness, meaningful accommodation, timely and clear communication, malingering and trust. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings point to potential areas for improving RTW practices in police services: greater flexibility, more clarity, stricter confidentiality and reduced stigma. More research is needed on RTW practices for managing psychological injuries to help inform policy and practice