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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Andlin-Sobocki P, Jönsson B, Wittchen H-U, Olesen J. Cost of disorders of the brain in Europe. Eur J Neurol Off J Eur Fed Neurol Soc. 2005;12(Suppl 1):1–27.
Greenberg PE, Kessler RC, Birnbaum HG, Leong SA, Lowe SW, Berglund PA, et al. The economic burden of depression in the United States: How did it change between 1990 and 2000? J Clin Psychiatry. 2003;64(12):1465–75.
Lim KL, Jacobs P, Ohinmaa A, Schopflocher D, Dewa C. A new population-based measure of the economic burden of mental illness in Canada. Chronic Dis Can. 2008;28(3):92–8.
World Health Organization. Mental health policies and programmes in the workplace. Geneva: Mental Health Policy and Service Guidance Package; 2005.
Birnbaum HG, Kessler RC, Kelley D, Ben-Hamadi R, Joish VN, Greenberg PE. Employer burden of mild, moderate, and severe major depressive disorder: mental health services utilization and costs, and work performance. Depress Anxiety. 2010;27(1):78–89.
Laitinen-Krispijn S, Bijl RV. Mental disorders and employee sickness absence: the NEMESIS study. Netherlands mental health survey and incidence study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2000;35(2):71–7.
Lim D, Sanderson K, Andrews G. Lost productivity among full-time workers with mental disorders. J Ment Health Policy Econ. 2000;3(3):139–46.
Kessler RC, Frank RG. The impact of psychiatric disorders on work loss days. Psychol Med. 1997;27(4):861–73.
Wang J, Adair CE, Patten SB. Mental health and related disability among workers: a population-based study. Am J Ind Med. 2006;49:514–22.
Stephens T, Joubert N. The economic burden of mental health problems in Canada. Chronic Dis Can. 2001;22(1):18–23.
Dewa CS, Corbière M, Durand M-J, Hensel J. Challenges related to mental health in the workplace. In: Gatchel RJ, Schultz IZ, editors. Handbook of occupational health and wellness. New York: Springer; 2013. p. 105–31.
Dufour-Poirier M, Bourque R. Risques psychosociaux au travail et action syndicale: l’expérience des délégués sociaux de la FTQ au Québec. Négoc. 2013;1:43–56.
Corbière M, Durand MJ. From mental disorder to work disability - A transdisciplinary approach to better understand this thematic and to offer ways of interventions. Québec: Presses de l’Université du Québec; 2011.
Durand MJ, Corbière M, Coutu MF, Reinharz D, Albert V. A review of best work-absence management and return-to-work practices for workers with musculoskeletal or common mental disorders. Work J Prev Assess Rehab. 2014;48(4):579–589. doi:10.3233/WOR-141914.
Lemieux P, Corbière M, Durand MJ. Return to work and work integration of people with a mental disorder - The role of the immediate supervisor. In: Corbière M, Durand MJ, editors. From mental disorder to work disability - A transdisciplinary approach to better understand this thematic and to offer ways of interventions. Montréal: Presses de l’Université du Québec; 2011. p. 315–38.
St-Arnaud L, Briand C, Corbière M, Durand MJ, Bourbonnais R, Saint-Jean M, et al. Supporting a return to work after an absence for a mental health problem: Design, implementation, and evaluation of an integrated practices program. Studies and research projects/report R-823. Montreal: Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et sécurité du travail; 2011.
NICE. Managing long term sickness absence and incapacity of work, vol. 19. London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; 2009.
NICE. Promoting mental wellbeing through productive, healthy working conditions guidance for employers, vol. 22. London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; 2009.
Shaw WS, Robertson MM, Pransky G, McLellan RK. Employee perspectives on the role of supervisors to prevent workplace disability after injuries. J Occup Rehabil. 2003;13(3):129–42.
Baril R, Clarke J, Friesen M, Stock S, Cole D. Management of return-to-work programs for workers with musculoskeletal disorders: a qualitative study in three Canadian provinces. Soc Sci Med. 2003;57(11):2101–14.
Carpentier-Roy M-C, Vézina M. Work and its misunderstandings: A psychodynamic survey of work in Quebec. Québec: Les Presses de l’Université Laval; 2000.
Pomaki G, France RL, Khushrushani N, Murray E, Lampinen T, Mah P. Best practices for Return-to-work/Stay-at-work interventions for workers with mental health conditions. Vancouver: Occupational Health and Safety Agency for Healthcare in BC (OHSAH); 2010.
MacEachen E, Clarke J, Franche RL, Irvin E. Workplace-based return to work literature review group. Systematic review of the qualitative literature on return to work after injury. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2006;32(4):257–69.
Glozier N. Workplace effects of the stigmatization of depression. J Occup Environ Med. 1998;40(9):793–800.
Nieuwenhuijsen K, Verbeek JH, de Boer AG, Blonk RW, van Dijk FJ. Supervisory behaviour as a predictor of return to work in employees absent from work due to mental health problems. Occup Environ Med. 2004;61(10):817–23.
Dunstan DA, MacEachen E. Bearing the brunt: co-workers’ experiences of work reintegration processes. J Occup Rehabil. 2013;23(1):44–54.
Hauck K, Chard G. How do employees and managers perceive depression: a worksite case study. Work. 2009;33(1):13–22.
Thorne S, Reimer Kirkham S, O’Flynn-Magee K. The analytic challenge in interpretive description. Int J Qual Methods. 2004;3(1):1.
Sandelowski M. Foreword. In: Thorne SE, editor. Interpretive description. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press; 2008. p. 11–4.
Gallagher F. Descriptive and interpretive research – Description of psychosocial needs of women with breast cancer. In: Corbière M, Larivière N, editors. Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods in research related to humanities, social and health sciences. Québec: Presses de l’Université du Québec; 2014. p. 5–28.
Kitzinger J. Qualitative research: introducing focus groups. Br Med J. 1995;311:299–302. doi:10.1136/bmj.311.7000.299.
Desrosiers J, Larivière N. Focus group – Application for collecting data on the functioning of people with a personality disorder. In: Corbière M, Larivière N, editors. Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods in research related to humanities, social and health sciences. Québec: Presses de l’Université du Québec (PUQ); 2014. p. 257–82.
Corbière M, St-Arnaud L, Durand M-J, Coutu M-F, Lecomte T, Negrini A, et al. Factors influencing the return to work of individuals who have experienced depression - the unions’ viewpoint and role. Studies and research projects/report R-805. Montréal, QC: Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et sécurité au travail (IRSST); 2014.
Harrison D. Les réseaux d’entraide à la FTQ et à la CSN. Québec: Centre de recherche sur les innovaions sociales (CRISES); 2012.
Kitzinger J. The methodology of focus groups: the importance of interaction between research participants. Sociol Health Illn. 1994;16(1):103–21. doi:10.1111/1467-9566.ep11347023.
Corbière M, Negrini A, Dewa CS. Mental health problems and mental disorders: linked determinants to work participation and work functionning. In: Loisel P, Anema JR, editors. Handbook of work disability: prevention and management. New York: Springer Science + Business Media; 2013.
St-Arnaud L, Pelletier M. Handbook for supporting return to work and job tenure. Studies and research projects/report RG-758. Montréal: Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et sécurité du travail (IRSST); 2013.
Miles MB, Huberman AM. Analyse des données qualitatives. Paris: De Boeck Université; 2003.
Van der Maren J-M. Méthodes de recherche pour l’éducation. Montréal: Les presses de l’Université de Montréal; 1995.
St-Arnaud L. From rehabilitation to prevention – challenges for the development of new practices related to recovery and return to work. Boucherville: Colloque de l’Association des professionnelles et professionnels en santé et sécurité au travail; 2009.
Trach J, Mayhall C. Analysis of the types of natural supports utilized during job placement and development. J Rehabil. 1997;63(2):43.
Corbière M, Villotti P, Lecomte T, Bond G, Lesage A, Goldner E. Work accommodations and natural supports for maintaining employment. Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2014;37(2):90–8. doi:10.1037/prj0000033
Stansfeld SA, Fuhrer R, Shipley MJ, Marmot MG. Work characteristics predict psychiatric disorder: prospective results from the Whitehall II study. Occup Environ Med. 1999;56(5):302–7.
Coutu MF, Nastasia I, Durand MJ, Corbière M, Loisel P, Lemieux P, et al. A systematic approach for identifying the psychological health and work-related determinants of occupational disability in a target Sector. Studies and research projects/report R-579. Montreal: Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et sécurité du travail (IRSST); 2011.
Niedhammer I, Goldberg M, Leclerc A, Bugel I, David S. Psychosocial factors at work and subsequent depressive symptoms in the Gazel cohort. Scand J Work Environ Health. 1998;24(3):197–205.
Corrigan PW, Penn DL. Lessons from social psychology on discrediting psychiatric stigma. Am Psychol. 1999;54(9):765–76.
Islam MR, Hewstone M. Dimensions of contact as predictors of intergroup anxiety, perceived out-group variability, and out-group attitude: an integrative model. Personal Soc Psychol Bull. 1993;19(6):700–10. doi:10.1177/0146167293196005.
Kolodziej ME, Johnson BT. Interpersonal contact and acceptance of persons with psychiatric disorders: a research synthesis. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1996;64(6):1387–96.
Bilsker D, Gilbert M, Samra J. Antidepressant skills at work: Dealing with mood problems in the workplace. Vancouver: Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (CARMHA); 2007.
Corbière M, Samson E, Villotti P, Pelletier JF. Strategies to fight stigma toward people with mental disorders: perspectives from different stakeholders. Sci World J 2012:1–10. doi:10.1100/2012/516358.
MSSS. L’invalidité pour cause de troubles mentaux chez le personnel du réseau de la santé et des services sociaux. Rapport et recommandations du groupe de travail. Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux, Gouvernement du Québec; 2005.
Fleury MJ, Imboua A, Aube D, Farand L, Lambert Y. General practitioners’ management of mental disorders: a rewarding practice with considerable obstacles. BMC Fam Pract. 2012;13:19.
MSSS. Évaluation de l’implantation du Plan d’action en santé mentale 2005–2010. Québec: Ministère de la santé et des services sociaux; 2012.
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.
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.
About this article
Cite this article
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
- Focus group