The Physical Health Effects of Precarious Work

You may have heard the phrase ‘precarious work’ being thrown around when Canadians talk about the economy. That’s because it’s becoming one of the fastest growing types of work. Precarious work is basically when workers who fill permanent job needs are denied full workplace rights. It’s unstable, low-paying and tends to have dangerous working conditions.

In other words – it’s bad work. And it’s found everywhere. 

It can range from healthcare to retail to education. One thing that all of these jobs have in common, no matter what sector, is the drastic toll it can take on physical health. 

Here are some of the physical impacts of precarious work.

Safety and Hazards

People in precarious work positions are more likely to be involved in physically demanding jobs where the employer has less regard for following safety regulations. Employees are often not properly trained and have no knowledge of the Occupational Health and Safety Act or where to even start with a complaint. If they do understand the regulations, many are afraid to report any safety violations for fear of retaliation. A recent poll in Alberta found that 70 per cent of disabling workplace injuries in the province go unreported.


Almost everyone has had to call in sick to work at one point in their lives, but many in precarious work positions don’t have that luxury. What is even worse is that they are more likely to get sick. Most have multiple jobs working long hours, which makes them more subjectable to illness and exhaustion. The stress of this type of work has also been shown to cause serious blood pressure issues. But taking time off isn’t an option. They fear getting fired or missing out on a much-needed paycheque. 

Access to Services

This is one of the most frustrating aspects of precarious work. Workers have trouble accessing health services and much needed medical treatment and prescriptions because they don’t have benefits or proper drug coverage. Even if you’re able to access some services, it’s extremely difficult to get the time off to make appointments to seek treatment.

Worse as You Age

When you are forced to work in precarious positions over a lifetime, the impact can add up. Workers end up having to work well past when most Canadians typically retire due to the fact that most precarious jobs have no pension plans and are typically low-paying. As you age, more health issues arise and with lack of access to pharmacare or being able to take days off, your health can be seriously impacted. 


Alberta has laws and resources in place that do make to protect your physical health. The Alberta Human Rights Commission outlines what is expected of employers and if you feel your health and safety is being violated you can contact them confidentially. You can also submit questions about the Occupational Health and Safety Act online or contact them by phone at 1-866-415-8690.

These health effects are no joke. Your employer should care about your physical well-being, especially if it’s your job that is causing your health issues and preventing you from finding solutions. 

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