Securing employer commitment to workers with terminal illness
The diagnosis of a terminal illness is not something we like to think about or anticipate.
But it happens to people in work, and it is likely to become more common - with retirement ages increasing and Cancer Research UK projecting that 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives.
People respond differently to a terminal diagnosis. Some will wish to leave work, but others will want to stay in employment for various reasons - to protect their death-in-service entitlement, because they need the day-to-day income, or perhaps because they enjoy the stimulation of work and being part of their workplace. Work may have therapeutic value for some people with terminal illness.
Sadly, there have been cases where employees with terminal diagnoses have wanted to stay in work but have been put through stressful HR capability assessments and ultimately dismissed.
The TUC Dying to Work campaign is about giving workers with a terminal condition the choice to do what is right for them.
The campaign is calling for a change in the law to make terminal illness a ‘protected characteristic’. This would mean that employees battling terminal illness would enter a protected period within which they could not be dismissed as a result of their condition.
The campaign has also produced a voluntary charter for individual employers to sign. It commits them to support, protect and guide staff following a terminal diagnosis.
Trade union reps at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust took the charter to their employer – and the Trust has now become the first NHS employer in the country to formally support the campaign.
Iain McInnes, the Trust’s Interim Chief Executive said at the signing:
“The Trust recognises that staff members with terminal illnesses need support and understanding, especially when it comes to removing or reducing any stress and worry about their job. We are delighted to support this initiative.”
Branch Secretary John Flannery said:
“Nobody should be forced to leave employment due to terminal illness and they should be afforded the right to choose their own path at the end of their life.
“In my experience the Trust has always been extremely supportive of staff who have been diagnosed with terminal illness. The decision to commit to the TUC charter was an easy one as it is the right thing to do.
“The formal commitment of the Trust is very welcome and could be of great benefit to individual staff in the future.
“I think that more employers could and should commit to the charter. I’d encourage other branches to approach their employers to sign-up.”