How It’s Helped

Founder & Patron of the campaign, Jacci Woodcock

The following is a real-life account of GMB member Jacci Woodcock who has been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and her on-going case.

“Back in June 2012, I knew something was wrong. I went to the doctors and I got diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. I didn’t even take any days off until nearly a year later when I hit a wall of complete exhaustion.”

“I visited my GP, he gave me a sick note for a couple of weeks and I sent this into work. At this point, it had never occurred to me that they wouldn’t support me.”

“When I returned to work, I asked to meet with HR. Over the course of the meeting she questioned my capability to do important aspects of my job, incorrectly claimed they had made adjustments for me and told me that the company had already been kind enough to pay my salary whilst I attended my hospital appointments. Finally, she told me that she had done a lot of research into the benefits I would be entitled to if I wasn’t in work.”

“For the first time, I began to feel anxious because I now understood that they were trying to get rid of me. I was upset but giving up was not an option. I thought this is not right, not fair and incredibly wrong! I feel strong and determined to use the time I have left to do my upmost to get the law changed to protect terminally ill people. People think the protection is there but I’m categorically saying it isn’t!”

An Update From Jacci

I happily accept my fate, but I am not happy that other workers who don’t have my vision, tenacity & strength suffer at the hands of unscrupulous employers.

Below are my supportive family who are both proud and sad that I feel it necessary to spend the last part of my journey in this life to right a wrong. They understand that I feel passionate that the present law is not protecting terminally ill employees and that I am determined that this must change.

If this has not been achieved before my death, then my daughter, Jaime will step in and take my place as my voice…

My daughter with two of my three Grandsons; Jaime Mitchell (40), Harrison Mitchell (19), Leighton Mitchell (20) and me!
My absent grandson is Rees Mitchell (10).

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Karen’s Story

Karen, who has spent a lot of a life as a stay-at-home parent, had just finished training for her dream job as a firefighter when she was diagnosed.

“This job meant everything to me. It was so hard to get on the training course, and I put so much work into it.”

“Just when I finally passed and achieved my dream, it was all snatched away,” she added.

Before the diagnosis, Karen was assigned to Retford Fire Station, and hopes to go back to work there if the treatment works. Earlier this month Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service signed up to the Dying to Work Voluntary Charter.

Karen Land with the firefighters from Retford Fire Station
Her partner Kevin Brett, 55, is a firefighter at Newark Fire Station.

The TUC Dying to work Campaign is Pressing for additional employment protection for terminally ill workers who need greater protection from heartless employers who utilise a loophole in the law to dismiss the dying due to their illness. Every person battling terminal conditions deserves the choice of how to spend their final months.

The voluntary charter means that employees working for companies who have signed up to the charter can no longer be forced out of work if diagnosed with a terminal illness. This should be the case for all employees diagnosed with a terminal illness and that is why it is paramount that the law is changed. The TUC and sister organisations who are supporting this call for a change in the law will not rest until the change is made.

Tracy Crump, the service’s head of people and organisational development, said: “Our people are our Service, and their health and wellbeing is massively important to us, so I’m really pleased that we have been able to sign this charter to set in stone our commitment to ensuring that any employee with a terminal illness has much needed security, stability and peace of mind.”

Jacci Woodcock started the campaign after realising the present law had this loop hole where unscrupulous employers can behave dishonourably.

Jacci says “I totally understand how Karen must be feeling as I too was incredibly fit & healthy when I was told I had two months to live if I didn’t have treatment. I too loved my job, the stimulation, the normality & the challenges. In a way it was my identity, my focus & interaction with my colleagues & customers. It actually never occurred to me that I would not receive the emotional and practical support from my employer, surely that is just a basic human response?

Unfortunately it soon became clear that this was not the case for me. I knew then that I had no choice, but to take up the challenge to correct this. I had to be incredibly strong & stand up to being victimised, pressurised, put under enormous stress & anxiety.

I vow that I will not stop campaigning until the law is changed and all employees have the rights they should already have and be able to make their own choices about whether to continue to work or not. I don’t want any other employee to endure what I went through. Karen has a fantastic employer who values & supports her. I hope many, many more Companies will be signing up to the Dying to Work campaign to give a positive, supportive message to their workers that they are hugely valued.”

If it had not been for Jacci, the 600,000 employees covered by the charter to date would not have the freedom to make their own personal choice. Whilst this is an amazing accomplishment, Jacci and her supporters are determined to ensure that there are no loopholes and that all employees have the right to choose whether they wish to continue working or not. Regardless of that choice, they should be able to expect help and support from their employer. Unfortunately the experience of many workers is that their employer is either unsympathetic or puts up barriers to them continuing in work.