Terminally Ill Employees
The Dying to Work Campaign is about securing better protection for employees who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
On reading those last words, you may be surprised that this could be an issue in the first place. For most of us, our first reaction when we hear someone has a terminal illness is one of sympathy. We would not expect that this person should have to face an uphill struggle with their employer in order to keep their job. This is clearly the last thing a terminally ill person should need to worry about. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to a woman called Jacci Woodcock, a constituent from my region in the UK.
Jacci was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and had planned to continue to work, not only because she was a single mother and it was financially necessary, but also because she enjoyed her work. Jacci informed her employer of her diagnosis, expecting support and appropriate measures to be put in place. However, Jacci received no support and in fact her employer tried to unfairly dismiss her.
Thankfully for Jacci her trade union was there to support her and together they successfully challenged Jacci’s employer. But what about those who aren’t so lucky? If you found yourself in that situation, would you really want to spend the precious time you have left fighting with your employer?
Working for legal change
As it currently stands, there are no protections for terminally ill employees under EU law. This is what the Dying to Work campaign wants to change. We want to see:
- New EU legislation, similar to the Pregnant Workers Directive, which safeguards the rights of employees, by identifying ‘terminal illness’ as a protected characteristic.
- Protections for the employee’s death in service benefits which are lost if the employee is fired. This benefit linked to workers’ employment contracts can be used to cover funeral costs and can ease the financial burden of the family that the individual leaves behind.
Action across Europe
The new cross-party MEP Group in the European Parliament works on three areas to move the campaign forward at the European level. These are:
- Encouraging employers to sign the EU Employer Charter. Before we get the legal change needed, this Charter will give employees around the EU the reassurance they deserve, should they receive a terminal diagnosis.
- Working with European partners to promote the campaign’s objectives through ongoing EU legislation.
- Encouraging the main EU political groups to include the campaign objectives in their 2019 election manifestos.