Like most doctors, I find the obituary page in the British Medical Journal fascinating. It is amazing to see how many of my colleagues work up until weeks before their death from a terminal condition. Not everyone would want to do that, but some workers have no choice.
Having survived breast cancer myself, I know just how frightening a diagnosis can be. I imagine how much worse it must feel when your job is insecure and you have no idea how your family will cope financially.
Most employers are supportive when an employee is dying. Some are not and there is no law as yet that can make them step up to the plate.
Employers are free to dismiss terminally ill workers once they have made ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the employee’s job to assist with the illness. The decision as to what is ‘reasonable’ is open to wide interpretation. The humiliation of being sacked and the loss of death in service benefits to terminally ill workers sacked before death is a further distress at a time when security for a family for the future should be protected.
The Trades Union have begun a campaign, “Dying to Work” focussing on three areas:
1. To get terminally ill workers covered by Protective Rights at Work in line with those covered by Pregnancy/Maternity Rights
2. To protect death in service benefits
3. To allow workers with terminal illness to die in dignity
Janet Ruff, shop assistant, USDAW representative and North West Leicestershire Labour Party’s Trades Union Liaison Officer says “Most people would prefer to still be productive within the workforce to keep their lives as normal as possible. The last thing a terminally ill worker needs when facing up to a terminal illness is to have to fight for the right to continue working”.
If you agree, add your support the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work Campaign’ here: www.dyingtowork.co.uk