System-based return-to-work and disability management interventions: a systematic review

Reasons for the study

Over the last decade, the Institute for Work & Health has produced a series of systematic reviews on what workplace-based policies, practices and approaches support return to work (RTW) and recovery for injured and/or ill workers. However, important information gaps remain regarding the effects of regulatory, system-based strategies focused on disability management. This project seeks to address this knowledge gap by conducting a systematic review of the literature that answers this specific research question: What system-based RTW and work disability management/support interventions are effective in assisting workers with musculoskeletal, mental health and pain-related conditions with their return to work and recovery after a period of work absence?

Objectives of the study

  • To conduct a systematic review of the research evidence on system-based RTW and disability management interventions
  • To create an evidence-informed practical guide to support RTW and recovery for musculoskeletal, pain-related and mental health conditions based on the findings from this systematic review on system-based strategies and a related systematic review update on workplace-based strategies

Anticipated results/impact

Based on the system-based and related workplace-based systematic reviews, workplace and system stakeholders responsible for return to work and disability management will be kept abreast of the latest research on what makes RTW programs effective.

Project status


Research team

Kim Cullen, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
Emma Irvin, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
Morgane Le Pouésard, Institute for Work & Health
Dwayne Van Eerd, Institute for Work & Health
Ben Amick, Institute for Work & Health
Siobhan Cardoso, Institute for Work & Health
Quenby Mahood, Institute for Work & Health
Ron Saunders, Institute for Work & Health
Judy Geary, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences
Ulrik Gensby, Team Working Life ApS

Participating organizations

BC Federation of Labour
BC Trucking Association
Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy
National Institute of Disability Management and Research

Funded by