Union Perceptions of Factors Related to the Return to Work of Employees with Depression


Purpose Between 30 and 60 % of the societal cost of depression is due to losses related to decreased work productivity. To date, only a few studies have focused on union perspectives related to factors influencing the return-to-work of employees absent due to depression, despite evidence of the importance of these perspectives. The purpose of this study is to develop a better understanding of union perspectives on the factors surrounding the return-to-work of employees who were absent from work due to depression. Methods In this qualitative study, conducted in Canada (Québec), 23 individuals (union representatives and peer workers) from the three largest unions (mixed industries) in Quebec took part in one of three focus groups. Results Fourteen emerging themes (e.g., work environment, attitudes toward depression) were distributed over five categories of stakeholders involved in the return-to-work of employees on sick leave (i.e., employers and immediate supervisors, co-workers, employees on sick leave due to depression, general physicians, and unions). We observed four major cross-cutting themes that arose beyond these five categories: (1) organizational culture in which mental health issues and human aspects of work are central, (2) support and follow-up during the work absence and the return-to-work, (3) lack of resources to assist the employee in the return-to-work, and (4) stakeholders’ prejudices and discomfort regarding depression. Conclusions Our results clarify the factors, from a union perspective, that may facilitate or hinder the return-to-work of employees absent from work due to depression.

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We wish to thank all the individuals who have participated in the focus groups of this study. M.C., M-F.C. & T.L. have salary awards from the Fonds de Recherche du Québec—Santé. This study was supported by a grant from the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST).

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

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Correspondence to Marc Corbière.

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Corbière, M., Renard, M., St-Arnaud, L. et al. Union Perceptions of Factors Related to the Return to Work of Employees with Depression. J Occup Rehabil 25, 335–347 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-014-9542-5

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  • Union
  • Perceptions
  • Return-to-work
  • Depression
  • Focus group