Women's experience of the workers compensation system
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Science
A phenomenological study was undertaken to understand women's experience of the workers compensation system. Eleven women were interviewed. They ranged in age from twenty-five to sixty-five years and represented diverse socio-economic and educational backgrounds. All women were from a non-indigenous background. The initial question to women was "Can you tell me what it is like to be involved in the workers' compensation system?" The narratives were analysed and interpreted using Hycner's (1985) phenomenological guidelines. The knowledge embedded in the interviews, expressed through core stories and themes, was essential to making women's voices visible and provide insight into service delivery based on women's experiences and needs. Four core themes were found: negative versus positive experiences, the workplace response and role in the process, women's experiences of payouts, and reasons why women may not claim workers' compensation. The women indicated that the workers compensation process was a disincentive to making a claim. WorkCover was viewed as siding with the employer, bureaucratic in nature and lacking values associated with empathy, sympathy and caring. Recommendations for improvements to the workers compensation system included to establish legal obligations and enforcement of occupational health and safety responsibilities to injured and to ill workers; adoption of occupational health and safety values by employers; change the attitudes of employers (recognising women as breadwinners and that workers are not disposable); a single case manager to advocate for injured or ill workers; recognition of mental and emotional consequences of an injury or illness; provision of rehabilitation that recognises mental and emotional factors as well as the importance of family participation; greater involvement of employers and employees in the rehabilitation process; and finally, improved service delivery that involves consistency, ethics, clarity (regarding the WorkCover process for injured workers and employers), accountability and involvement of all parties.