McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster researcher lead on mental health employment report

Published: April 12, 2018
Rebecca Gewurtz is an assistant professor of occupational therapy at McMaster University's School of Rehabilitation Science.
Rebecca Gewurtz is an assistant professor of occupational therapy at McMaster University's School of Rehabilitation Science.

Rebecca Gewurtz, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at McMaster University's School of Rehabilitation Science, is the lead researcher on a new report from the Mental Health Commission of Canada that suggests hiring aspiring workers living with mental illness is good business.

The report, released today, is called A Clear Business Case for Hiring Aspiring Workers. The document summarizes an in-depth Mental Health Commission of Canada research study led by Gewurtz that examined the costs and benefits of recruiting and retaining people living with mental illness.

"The research presents compelling evidence about the experiences of diverse Canadian organizations who have taken active steps to hire and accommodate workers who have experienced mental health problems," said Gewurtz, who is also a registered occupational therapist. "Most remarkably, the findings highlight a significant return on investment, with benefits for organizations and workers alike."

According to the report, aspiring workers are people who have been overlooked by the workplace or sidelined due to episodic or persistent illness and are struggling to remain in the workplace. It states that the unemployment rate for people living with severe mental illness hovers between 70 and 90 per cent.

Researchers followed the experience of select employees at five organizations, chronicling how both employers and employees can benefit financially and socially from hiring and accommodating the needs of workers with mental illnesses. The research suggests that by making small investments to accommodate workers, employers can build an inclusive workplace culture that values diverse workers, including those from the aspiring workforce.

"The findings build a strong business case for organizations to take active steps to make their workplace more accessible to diverse workers – the benefits may be felt by everyone," said Gewurtz. "Although this was a relatively small-scale study, the findings highlight that this is an area worthy of attention by organizations and government."

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