Work participation for people with severe mental illnesses: An integrative review of factors impacting job tenure

Anne E. Williams, Ellie Fossey, Marc Corbière, Tamar Paluch, Carol Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Enabling people with severe mental illness to sustain employment remains a challenge. This is despite most wishing to be employed, and the development of effective vocational interventions and employment supports for this population. To better understand how to enable their sustained involvement in the workforce, this review sought to identify, analyse and summarise studies investigating the factors that impact the job tenure of workers with severe mental illness, irrespective of the type of employment support they received. 

Methods: An integrative literature review approach was employed to locate, appraise and synthesise quantitative and qualitative research focused on job tenure published in the 20 years up to 2013. Findings from nineteen studies were extracted and integrated using thematic analytic strategies. 

Results: Job tenure was mostly conceptualised across the reviewed studies as time spent in individual jobs rather than as ongoing participation in the workforce. Three themes describe the factors contributing to job tenure: (1) the worker's experience of doing the current job; (2) natural supports in the workplace; and (3) strategies for integrating work, recovery and wellness, each of which could either support or impede ongoing employment. 

Conclusion: Occupational therapists, other vocational specialists and mental health staff can use these factors as a guide to supporting people with severe mental illness in employment. More detailed examination of job tenure is required in future research not only on job duration but also on the quality of jobs held, their value for career development and the role of services in supporting tenure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-85
Number of pages21
JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • Job tenure
  • Severe mental illness
  • Social firm
  • Supported employment
  • Vocational rehabilitation

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