Ellen MacEachen


Ellen MacEachen

“In the context of a fast changing world of work, it can be difficult for policymakers to design programs and policies that stay current. And even when great work disability policies and programs are designed, their implementation can be different than intended. As a sociologist of work and health, I have explored system design and logic with a focus on how people who need work integration or other support can fall through the cracks of work disability systems. These challenges and the desire to contribute to change led me to help create CRWDP.”

Key appointments

  • Co-Director, Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy
  • Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Health Systems, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo
  • Associate Professor (Status), Dalla Lana School of Public Health,
  • Associate Professor (Status), Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Toronto
  • Associate Professor (Adjunct), Department of Health, Ageing and Society, McMaster University
  • Senior Scientist (Adjunct), Institute for Work & Health
  • Program Executive Committee and Mentor, Work Disability Prevention CIHR Strategic Training Program
  • Past-President, Canadian Association for Research on Work and Health
  • Academic Council Member, Pacific Coast University, British Columbia
  • Academic Fellow, Centre for Critical Qualitative Health Research, University of Toronto
  • 2014 Visiting Fellow, School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England, Australia
  • Steering Committee, Bancroft Institute for Studies in Workers Compensation and Health and Safety.
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation


  • PhD Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto
  • MSc Rehabilitation Medicine, Queen’s University
  • BA Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University

Areas of Expertise

  • Social relations of work and health
  • Health systems and implementation design and logic
  • Work integration, non-standard work and insecure employment

Research Activities

MacEachen is a sociologist of work and health and specialises in how qualitative methods can inform policy and practice. Her research focuses on systemic, social and organizational determinants of work injury, disability and labour market integration. She conducts research on how occupational health and safety and work reintegration systems are designed and implemented. Her recent studies have focused on return to work, injured worker retraining programs, occupational health and safety inspectors and non-standard workplaces such as temporary work agencies. Throughout is an analytic focus on worker vulnerability and how work and heath law, policies and practices can be designed and adapted to address contingent and insecure employment conditions.

Recent Publications

MacEachen, E., Saunders, R., Lippel, K., Kosny, A., Mansfield, L., Carrasco, C. (July 2014). Final report: Understanding the management of injury prevention and return to work in temporary work agencies. Institute for Work & Health.

MacEachen, E. and Kosny, A. Qualitative Evidence in Occupational Health. In Olson, K., Young, R.,  Schultz, I. (Eds.),  Handbook of Qualitative Research for Evidence-Based Practice, Springer-Science (in press).

Saunders, S.L*., MacEachen, E., Nedelec, B. Understanding and building upon effort to return to work by the long-term work disabled and unemployed. Work (in press).

Tjulin, A*., MacEachen, E. (Co-PA) The importance of workplace social relations in the return to work process - a missing piece in the return-to-work puzzle? In Schultz & R Gatchel (Eds.), Handbook of Return-to-Work: From Research to Practice.  New York: Springer Publishing. (in press)

MacEachen, E., Polzer, J. “You are free to set your own hours": Governing worker productivity and health through flexibility and resilience. In Polzer, J. and Power, E, (Eds).Risky Subjects, Healthy Citizens: Studies in Canadian Governmentality, McGill-Queens Press (in press).

Seing, I*, MacEachen, E., Stahl, C., Ekberg, C. Early-return-to-work in the context of an intensification of working life and changing employment relationships. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation. Early pub online 12 June 2014: DOI 10.1007/s10926-014-9526-5.

Laberge, M.*, MacEachen, E., Calvet, B. (2014). Why are occupational health and safety training approaches not effective? Understanding young worker learning processes using an ergonomic lens. Safety Science 68:250-257.

Kosny, A., MacEachen, E., Smith, P., Lifshen, M. (2014) Another person in the room: Using interpreters during interviews with injured, immigrant workers in Canada, Qualitative Health Research, 24 (6), 837-845.

Dunstan, D., MacEachen, E. (2014). A theoretical model of co-worker responses to work reintegration processes, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 24 (2), 189-198.

Stahl, C., MacEachen, E., Lippel, K. (2014). Exploring ethical perspectives in the field of work disability prevention and return to work. Journal of Business Ethics, 120, 237-250.

MacEachen, E., Kosny, A., Ferrier, S., Lippel, K., Neilson, C., Franche, R.L., Pugliese, D. (2013). The ideal of consumer choice: challenges with implementation in an Ontario injured worker vocational retraining program.  Disability and Rehabilitation 35(25), 2171-2179.

MacEachen, E. (2013) Understanding work disability systems and intervening upstream. In Loisel, P., Anema, H., Costa-Black, K., Feuerstein, M., MacEachen, E., Pransky, G. (Eds.), Handbook of Work Disability: Prevention and Management. Springer Press.

Hogg-Johnson, S., MacEachen, E. (2013) Methodological Issues in Work Disability Prevention Research. In Loisel, P., Anema, H., Costa-Black, K., Feuerstein, M., MacEachen, E., Pransky, G. (Eds.), Handbook of Work Disability: Prevention and Management. Springer Press.

Loisel, P., Anema, H. (Editors) and Feuerstein, M., Pransky, G., MacEachen, E., Costa-Black, K., (Co-Editors). 2013 Handbook of Work Disability: Prevention and Management. Springer Press.

Dunstan, D.*, MacEachen, E. (2013) Bearing the brunt: Co-workers’ experiences of work reintegration processes. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 23 (1), 44-54.

Mansfield, L.*, MacEachen, E., Tompa, E., Kalcevich, C.A (2012) Critical review of literature on experience-rating in workers’ compensation systems. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 10(1), 3- 25.

MacEachen, E., Lippel, K., Saunders, R., Kosny, A., Mansfield, L., Carrasco, C., Pugliese, D. (2012). Workers’ compensation experience rating rules and the danger to worker safety in the temporary work agency sector. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 10(1), 77-95.

MacEachen, E., Kosny, A., Ferrier, S., Lippel, K., Neilson, C., Franche, R.L., Pugliese, D. (2012) The ‘ability’ paradigm in vocational rehabilitation: challenges in an Ontario Injured worker retraining program, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 22(1), 105-117.

Kosny, A., MacEachen, E.  Lifshin, M., Smith, P., Jafri, G., Neilson, C., Pugliese, D., Shields, J.  (2012). Delicate dances: Immigrant workers’ experiences of injury reporting and claim filing. Ethnicity and Health, 17(3): 267-290.

Lippel, K., MacEachen, E., Werhun, N., Saunders, R., Kosny, A., Mansfield, L., Carrasco, C., Pugliese, D. (2011) Legal protections governing occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation of temporary employment agency workers in Canada: reflections on regulatory effectiveness. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 9(2), 69-90.

Tjulin, Å. *, MacEachen, E., Edvardsson Stiwne, E., Ekberg, K. (2011). The social interaction of return to work explored from co-workers experiences. Disability and Rehabilitation, 33(21-22), 1979-1989.

Kosny, A. *, MacEachen, E., Ferrier, S., Chambers, L. (2011). The role of health care providers in long term and complicated workers’ compensation claims. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 21, 582-590.

Tjulin, A. *, MacEachen, E., Ekberg, K. (2011). Exploring the meaning of early contact in return-to-work from the workplace actor’s view. Disability and Rehabilitation, 33(2), 137-145.

Bernhard, D. *, MacEachen, E., Lippel, K. (2010). Disability management experts and the impact on practice of jurisdiction.  International Journal of Social Security and Workers Compensation, 2(1), 1-16.

MacEachen, E., Kosny, A., Ferrier, S., Chambers, L. (2010). The ‘toxic dose’ of system problems: why some injured workers don’t return to work as expected, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 20(3), 349-366.

MacEachen, E., Kosny, A., Scott-Dixon, K., Facey, M., Chambers, L., Breslin, C., Kyle, N., Irvin, E., Mahood, Q. and the Small Business Systematic Review Team (2010). Workplace health understandings and processes in small businesses: A systematic review of the qualitative literature. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 20(2):180-98.

Recently Funded Grants

Laberge, M., Breslin, C., MacEachen, E. Élaboration des critères de conception d’un outil d’aide à l’évaluation des risques liés à la SST par les enseignants superviseurs de stage du Parcours de formation axée sur l’emploi. IRSST. $96,944. (2014-2016)

Kosny, A. (P.I.) and (in alphabetical order) Beaton, D.E., Cooper, J., Furlan, A., Koehoorn, M., MacEachen, E., Neis, B. Engaging health care providers in the return to work process. Workers’ Compensation Board of Manitoba Research and Workplace Innovation Program. $174,252. (2014-2015)

Tompa E, MacEachen E. (Co-Directors), Baril-Gingras G, Bornstein S, Boucher N, Breslin C, Calvert J, Cooke G, Côté P, Coutu MF, Dawe D, de Boer C, Dewa C, Durand MJ, Facey M, Gewurtz R, Grignon M, Hanes R, Heymann J, Holness L, Jennissen T, Koehoorn M, Laberge M, Latimer E, McLeod C, Montreuil S, Neis B, Noël A, O’Campo P, Ostry A, Premji S, Provencher Y, Rioux M, Saunders R, Scott-Marshall H, Shaw L, Small S, White M, Zeytinoglu I (37 Co-Investigators), Bernier J, Finkler E, Franche RL, Helfand N, Ison T, King A, Lippel K, Loisel P, MacAhonic P, Mendelson M, Stapleton J, Torjman S (12 Collaborators). (Total of 49 co-investigators and collaborators and 45 partner organizations). Income Security and Labour-Market Engagement: Envisioning the Future of Disability Policy in Canada. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Partnership Grant. $2,760,782 over 7 years (2013-2020).

Viikari-Juntura, E. (P.I.), Solovieva, S., Martimo, K.P., Kivekäs, T., Kausto, J., Virta, L., Laaksonen, M., Burdorf, A., MacEachen, E. Efficacy and effectiveness of occupational interventions in enhancing return to work: experimental and quasi-experimental studies. Academy of Finland. EURO 457,745 (CAD $615,000). (2013-2015).

Dunstan, D., MacEachen, E., Kosny, A. Testing a socially-enhanced workplace rehabilitation intervention. University of New England 2013 University Research Seed Grants. AUD $15,000 (CAD $15,800) (2013-2014)

Laberge, M. (PI), MacEachen, E., Vezina, N., Barette-Brisson, P. Évaluation de l'utilisation d'outils d'apprentissage visant le développement de compétences liées à la SST. Éducation, Loisir et Sport Québec (Projet de recherche-action visant l’expérimentation d’interventions novatrices), $75,000.(2012-20014).

Tompa E. and MacEachen E. (Co-Principal Investigators). Challenges of workplace injury prevention through financial incentives in a global economy. CIHR, Dissemination events: June 15, 2012. $25,000 over 1 year (2012-2013).

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