This stream of research looks at complex/extended mobility to and within work and how it is associated with a range of hazards and challenges related to visibility, regulatory effectiveness and workers’ voice. There is limited research on return-to-work within the mobile labour force including among the precariously employed.


In the first phase of this project, Cherry et al. (2019 a, b) compared return to work (RTW) among compensated workers injured in Alberta who were also residents of Alberta, to those injured in Alberta but living in Atlantic Canada. They found that some non-resident workers might be hesitant to report injuries, and the researchers noticed different patterns of temporary disability days for Alberta workers versus Atlantic Canadian workers employed in Alberta, with longer and lower RTW associated with recovery/rehabilitation outside of Alberta. This study also found that injured Atlantic Canadian workers were more likely to be in the construction sector and tended to have higher pre-injury incomes than those from Alberta. Interview data from this and other studies has pointed to the role that family and community supports play in RTW for these workers. Other research has found that disability days tend to be greater for workers living in rural areas than for those living in urban areas.

The second phase of this project extends this research and links it to related studies carried out by Katherine Lippel, Barb Neis, and others as part of the SSHRC-funded On the Move Partnership grant and to research conducted under the SSHRC-funded Centre for Research in Work Disability Policy Partnership grant. Current (2022-2024) stream activities are organized into four projects.

Project #1 entails further developing and finalizing a book manuscript that addresses health and safety and worker compensation for the mobile labour force. The manuscript will be submitted to Athabasca University Press in January 2024. Katherine Lippel was the lead author of this manuscript. With support from Policy and Practice in Return to Work (PPRTW) and the On the Move Partnership, co-authors Dalia Gesualdi-Fecteau (University of Montreal), University of Ottawa doctoral student Maxine Visotzky-Charlebois, and Barb Neis are responsible for completing the manuscript.

Project #2 involves designing and completing a multi-phased, multi-stakeholder, online Newfoundland and Labrador Dialogue on Return to Work. The Dialogue, which took place in 2022-2023, supported: the transfer to Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) of results from PPRTW and other RTW research; the completion of an environmental scan comparing Newfoundland and Labrador policies and practices around RTW with those in other Canadian provinces; and an exploration of insights and recommendations for future NL research and action on RTW arising from the Dialogue. The Dialogue was completed in partnership with the NL Federation of Labour and with Memorial University’s SafetyNet Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research. You will find the Dialogue descriptions, presentations, session reports and final report on the SafetyNet Centre website (Newfoundland and Labrador Dialogue on Return-to-Work Program | SafetyNet | Memorial University of Newfoundland (

Project #3 has two main components:

Project 3(a) is based at Memorial University. Researchers Barbara Neis and Desai Shan are studying RTW among maritime workers in British Columbia, including impacts on workers and their families. Maritime workers include seafarers, longshore workers, fish harvesters and marine aquaculture workers. Project 3(a) has three main components: a policy review; an anonymous online survey of injured BC maritime workers; and qualitative interviews of workers and key informants.

Project 3(b) is based at the University of British Columbia. Researchers McLeod and MacPherson are conducting a descriptive epidemiological study that characterizes work injury and RTW outcome trends over time among injured workers in the fisheries, aquaculture, and maritime and land transportation sectors in British Columbia. The study builds on epidemiological research on work injury and RTW for interprovincial and intra-provincial workers conducted by the PPRTW and the Partnership for Work, Health, and Safety (PWHS) [CB1] at UBC. When combined with findings from 3(a), this epidemiological study will increase the robustness of overall mobility stream findings. It will also help the PWHS develop the industry partnerships and epidemiological bases required for future research on work-related injury and RTW in these sectors in BC, including in wake of COVID-19 and the post-COVID-19 context, and considering the current shift from marine finfish pen aquaculture to land-based operations.

Project #4: The role of family members in work mobility and return to work is a key focus of a fourth project in this stream led by Dana Howse. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dana Howse conducted a study of the policies and practices that support or hinder people with physical disabilities to carry out work-related mobility. She found that workers’ compensation policies do not adequately account for the effort and challenges associated with work injury; in fact, rehabilitation and return-to-work processes can create or exacerbate work mobility challenges. Similarly, supports available through provincial government programs are often means-tested and unreliable, which limits opportunities for persons with disabilities to engage in work mobility. To accomplish work mobility, people with both work-related and non-work-related physical disabilities rely heavily on informal support from family, friends and colleagues to overcome challenges left unaddressed, or created by, return-to-work policies and practices. A manuscript presenting this research is in development. Dana Howse is finalizing the draft and plans to submit it to the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation early this fall.