The objective of this review was to identify and synthesize the best available evidence to address two questions. From the perspectives of individuals with chronic physical illnesses: i) what are the barriers in work disability policies with respect to labor market engagement? and ii) what are the facilitators in work disability policies with respect to labor market engagement?
Chronic physical illnesses have a high and increasing prevalence worldwide and are associated with significant disability in the working-age population. Individuals with chronic illnesses and disability have low employment and high unemployment rates, and low wages. Work disability policies have an important role in reducing negative labor market impacts, but inadequate policies may also pose barriers to work engagement.
This review included studies of individuals who were of working age, had one or more chronic physical illness, and had experience relevant to disability policy and work engagement. The phenomena of interest were perceived barriers and perceived facilitators in work disability policies with respect to labor market engagement. The context was any study setting globally. Studies considered for this review had qualitative data from a variety of methodologies.
This review was conducted in accordance with the JBI methodology for systematic reviews of qualitative evidence. A literature search involved academic databases (ie, CINAHL Plus, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, AgeLine, SocINDEX, Social Work Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, Social Services Abstracts) for published studies; gray literature sources (ie, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, MedNar, Google Scholar, OpenGrey, OAIster, Google, and relevant websites) for unpublished studies; and reference lists of retrieved records. No language, date, or country limiters were applied to the searches. Retrieved records from the database and gray literature searches were screened, with potentially relevant records then examined in full against the inclusion criteria. Eligible studies were critically appraised for methodological quality and those included in this review were subjected to data extraction of descriptive details and the study findings that were relevant to the review questions. Study findings were synthesized and were assigned confidence scores.
Forty-four studies of various qualitative designs and varied methodological quality (from low to high) were included in this review. The study samples represented a number of different chronic physical illnesses. There were 301 credible and unequivocal study findings, which were aggregated into 20 categories and 5 synthesized findings. Persons with chronic physical illnesses perceived barriers and facilitators relevant to the adequacy of disability policies in meeting their needs for returning to work after leave due to illness and for sustaining ongoing work engagement. They also perceived barriers and facilitators relevant to stakeholders’ communication, help, and support respecting workers’ efforts toward work engagement.
Although confidence in the synthesized findings is low due to limitations in the methods and research findings across primary studies, the evidence suggests that both the adequacy and implementation of work disability policies need to be improved to meet the needs of workers with chronic physical illnesses, for their labor market engagement.
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