People with terminal illnesses should not be forced out of work, argues Kate Baker.
To be diagnosed with a terminal illness is not something anyone wants to think about. But the additional burden of working for an employer whose only reaction to this devastating news is to begin a ‘capability process’ to remove you from the job you love is beyond contemplation – or is it?
So ask yourselves, if you were diagnosed with a terminal illness would you want to continue to work?
A job can provide dignity, a purpose to life, a sense of satisfaction, potential financial security for loved ones, not to mention an income for daily living. To lose all of this at a time when you are facing death is an unnecessary and inconceivable stress. No-one should be forced to leave their job due to a diagnosis of a terminal illness and everyone should have the right to decide their own path at the end of their life.
As a delegate at the 2016 Annual Representative Conference in Manchester, I attended a breakout session titled ‘Dying to Work’. I had no idea what the session would be about but soon discovered that the Dying to Work campaign had been set up by the TUC following the case of Jacci Woodcock, a 58-year-old sales manager from Derbyshire, who was forced out of her job after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.
In the absence of legislative protection, the TUC is now asking employers to sign up to its voluntary charter to prevent cases like Jacci’s happening again. The session, which covered Jacci’s story, was really moving and provided me with much to reflect on.
Surely, supporting and caring for the dying is fundamental to the core values of the NHS. Later, I took the campaign information packs to my staff-side meeting. With the backing and support of my union colleagues, we shared the resources with managers at our joint negotiating committee.
Our trust has always been positive about supporting those with a terminal illness. Therefore, we did not feel it would be difficult for management to make the decision to sign up to the TUC charter. I was not surprised that management agreed and swiftly committed the trust to the charter.
When this was announced, I was delighted to discover that my trust was the first trust, and also the first employer, in north west England to support the campaign by signing the charter.
In adopting the charter, Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust provided peace of mind to its 3,500 workers.
I believe that, as members a caring profession, we should all support and promote the Dying to Work campaign.
I urge you to lobby your employer, in whatever sector you work in, to sign up to this important charter.
- Kate Baker is a CSP steward and practice education facilitator, Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust.
See the website for this organisation here.
AuthorKate Baker CSP steward and practice education facilitator, Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust
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