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Wednesday, 26 October 2016 11:24

Help! My Employee Has A Critical Illness?

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It is estimated that by 2020 almost one in two people (47%) will get cancer, which in a lot of cases is a critical illness, at some point in their lives. Some employers may be ill equipped to deal with staff who have such a condition and are unfamiliar with the law.

The best advice is for employers and small businesses, once they become aware of the situation, to have regular discussions with employees who have a progressive critical illness and to make reasonable adjustments to their jobs if necessary.

"Being diagnosed with a potentially life threatening illness such as cancer can be a devastating experience for a worker and a manager may worry about how they can provide the best possible support .

"Many employers may not be aware that as soon as anyone gets diagnosed as having cancer, HIV or multiple sclerosis or other progressive life threatening conditions then they have the same protection as someone with a disability according to the law, and are automatically protected against discrimination under the Equality Act .

Top tips for managers on handling potentially life threatening critical illnesses at work include:

  • Have an early conversation with staff members who have progressive illnesses very early on and establish whether or not they wish to share their news with team members. Colleagues may be more understanding about any change in work arrangements if they know what's happening;
  • Get an understanding of the illness and the effects it will have on their staff and what kind of reasonable adjustments that can help them. This could mean a change in working hours, type of work or extra time off for medical appointments depending on the circumstances;
  • Regular chats can help to reveal if any additional adjustments will be needed and extra support that's available at work; and
  • Make sure employees are aware of their workplace rights including sick pay and other benefits they could be entitled to.

A situation where anyone you know has a critical illness is not pleasant. In a business situation, no one wants to confront this.  ACAS have published some useful general guidance for specific help

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