Vulnerable workers more likely to receive no income for work-related absence

In Brief

  • Of the Canadians who miss a week or more of work due to work-related injury or illness, almost half report no income from workers’ compensation.
  • Just over 20 per cent report no compensation of any type during their absence.
  • Some groups are at higher risk of receiving no compensation during such absences: recent immigrants, part-time workers, workers new in their jobs, younger workers, non-unionized workers, women and small-workplace employees.

Why was this study done?

This study aimed to find out the percentage of employees in Canada who receive workers’ compensation benefits or other replacement wages after a work-related injury or illness lasting one week or longer. In particular, the researchers wanted to determine if some groups of workers were more or less likely to receive income-replacement payments following a work injury.

How was the study done?

The researchers used Statistics Canada’s Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) from 1993 to 2005. From this survey, they identified 3,352 people who had a week or more of absence because of a work-related injury or illness over the past 12 months. With consent, their tax information was then linked to their SLID survey results. This was done to determine their sources of income, particularly workers’ compensation benefits. Responses were broken down by various characteristics related to personal factors (e.g. age, gender, length of time in Canada), their jobs (e.g. length of time in job, full- versus part-time status, job demands) or workplace (e.g. size, unionized versus non-unionized).

What did the researchers find?

Just over half (51 per cent) of the workers with a work-related injury or illness absence received workers’ compensation payments. Among those who didn’t receive workers’ compensation, more than half (55 per cent) received some other type of pay. In total, 78 per cent of injured or ill workers received some form of wage replacement. Just over 20 per cent of workers received no income from any source. Some groups were less likely to receive income replacement. Among these groups, the percentages reporting no income were as follows:

  • immigrants who had been in Canada for 10 years or less (40 per cent)
  • part-time workers (38 per cent)
  • workers in their job for six to 12 months (36 per cent)
  • workers in their job less than six months (32 per cent)
  • younger workers 15 to 24 years old (34 per cent)
  • non-unionized workers (30 per cent)
  • women (29 per cent)
  • workers from small workplaces with fewer than 20 employees (29 per cent).

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the study?

The study was based on a representative sample of Canadian workers. As well, a direct link to taxation records was possible for 96 per cent of these respondents, which reduced the bias introduced by self-reporting in the survey. Some groups, such as recent immigrants, may have been under-represented because they may be less likely to take a week off work and would not have been included in the study. Also, some respondents may not have reported non-taxable workers’ compensation benefits on their tax forms.

Publication Information


Differences in access to wage replacement benefits for absences due to work-related injury or illness in Canada


Smith P, Mustard C


American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 2009: vol. 52, no. 4, pp. 341-349