The EMPOWER Project

EMployment and PrecariOus Work in Toronto’s Health Sector: Evaluation and Research (EMPOWER)

Precarious employment – work that is contract, part-time or temporary, with low wages that fluctuate, and usually does not include benefits – can have a detrimental impact on our health. Personal Support Workers (PSWs) play an important role in healthcare but often have among the most precarious work conditions in the sector. This has been a longstanding concern, but has garnered increased attention during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EMPOWER project is a community-based participatory action research project, with PSWs directly engaged in all aspects of the project. An advisory committee made up of PSWs, labour representatives, and other stakeholders provides continuous guidance on the research design, interpretation of results, and dissemination.

We will use Respondent Driven Sampling to collect data via online surveys and in-depth interviews with PSWs who work in homecare in the Greater Toronto Area. We have added a module that focuses on COVID-19. Findings will be shared with the Ministries of Health and Long-Term Care, the Ministry of Labour, as well as other health system leaders, such as Ontario Health.

This project has been supported by a grant from the Metcalf Foundation.

Participate in Online Survey

2a_Flyer_Survey_June 5 2020

EMPOWER is now recruiting PSWs in Greater Toronto Area! Help us better understand the work conditions and health of PSWs, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, by participating in a confidential, 20-minute online survey ($20 honorarium will be provided).

To participate, you must be 18 years of age or older, and have worked as a PSW in GTA in the last year. Upon completion of the survey, there’s also an opportunity to recruit up to three of your PSW colleagues to the study and a $10 honorarium will be offered for each successful referral.

For more information, please contact Pinky Hapsari at

Reports and Presentations

April 14, 2020: Andrew Pinto, Pinky Hapsari and Debra Slater wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Star on the impact of COVID-19 on Personal Support Workers (PSWs), and how their treatment (e.g. lack of PPE, forced to find work in multiple locations) is emblematic of their treatment by the health system. This op-ed emerged from the EMPOWER Study, a community-based participatory research project by the Upstream Lab focused on improving work conditions for PSWs.

June 10, 2020: An advisory committee member of EMPOWER, Debra Slater, sat on the “COVID-19 & Black Communities” panel for discussion around “The conditions of PSWs and crisis of Long Term Care during COVID”. This session is part of a regular online discussion series held by Network Weaver for the Network for Advancement of Black Communities (NABC).


For any inquiries about the EMPOWER project, please contact the Research Coordinator: Pinky Hapsari

Relevant Guidelines and Resources for PSWs

Media Reports & Interview

Ontario Government News and Announcement

Other Relevant Reports and Publications

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