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Study of nursing home workers links injury to greater risk of job loss

A study of nursing home employees finds that within six months of being injured, workers are more likely to lose their positions.

Compared to colleagues reporting no injuries, workers who were hurt were more than twice as likely to be fired in the next six months.

“The results demonstrate higher risk of being fired, but we don’t have data to say why exactly workers are being fired. We can only say that their risks are higher,” said lead author Cassandra Okechukwu of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Workers who had been injured multiple times were twice as likely to quit their jobs in the next six months as colleagues with no injuries, the study found.

In general, workers are most likely to be injured during the first few months in a new work environment, the study team notes in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. So this job turnover increases the chances an injured worker will be injured again in a new workplace.

The results indicate that federal and state-level regulations, which are supposed to protect workers from being fired after injuries and to give workers compensation and sufficient time to recover from an injury, may not always be followed.

The researchers used data from a study done by the Work, Family and Health Network involving direct care workers from 30 nursing homes across New England. Its original goal was to examine workplace policies meant to improve workers’ health, safety and well-being, Okechukwu noted in an email.

Peter Smith, a researcher at the Institute for Work and Health at the University of Toronto, said it is significant that the study looked at mostly female workers.

“The previous research does suggest that the impact of a work injury on job loss might be more pronounced for women than it is for men,” Smith said.


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