Employer policies and practices to manage and prevent disability: foreword to the special issue
2016-11-25T09:09:18Z (GMT) by
Purpose Employer policies and practices have been shown to impact workplace disability, but research in this area has waned in recent years despite an aging workforce, a growing prevalence of chronic health conditions, and a larger proportion of working-age adults on permanent work disability in many jurisdictions. The purpose of this article is to describe the background rationale and methodology for an invited conference designed to improve research of employer strategies to curtail work disability. Methods A multidisciplinary team of 26 international researchers with published research in employer-based disability management or related fields were invited to attend a 3-day conference in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA. The overall goal was to review the status of current research of workplace disability management and prevention, examine its relevance for employer decision-making, compare conceptual frameworks or theoretical perspectives, and recommend future research directions. Working groups were organized and draft manuscripts were prepared in advance. Conference activities included working group presentations and critiques, discussions with a panel of industry consultants and advisors, group interaction and debate, generation of final recommendations, and manuscript revision. Results/Conclusion Six principal domains were established with respect to future research: (a) further elucidation of the key workplace factors that buffer the disabling effects of injury and illness; (b) more innovative and feasible options for workplace intervention; (c) measurement of workplace-relevant disability outcomes; (d) a stronger theoretical framework for understanding the factors behind employer uptake and implementation; (e) a focus on special clinical populations and occupations where disability risk is most troubling; and (f) better representation of workers and employers that reflect the diverse and changing nature of work. Final comments and recommendations of the working groups are presented in the following six articles in this special issue of the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation. Conference attendees recommended changes in methodology, collaboration strategies, and theoretical perspectives to improve the practical and scientific impact of future research of employer practices.