Stanley Town Council has thrown its backing behind a campaign to protect the rights of workers with potentially fatal conditions.
It has signed up to the “Dying to Work” Charter, which is pressing for additional protection for terminally ill employees and is backed by the TUC, GMB and Unison.
The Charter was signed by Council Leader, David Marshall, who said he was proud to back a campaign that was seeking to protect those who require it most, and Beth Farhat, regional secretary of the TUC.
Cllr Marshall said: “We are trying to help protect people who fall victim to unscrupulous employers who utilise a loophole in the law to dismiss poor people who are dying due to illness. It beggars belief that people can sink so low as to do this, but they do.
“We believe that every person battling terminal conditions deserves the choice of how to spend their final months.”
Many workers will get a serious illness at some time in their careers, that may require time off, often for many months, to receive treatment or recover. Best practice guidance has been produced by the TUC and others to deal with cases of long-term illness or return to work for those who are disabled as a result of an illness or injury.
Beth Farhat said: “In cases where there is no effective treatment, an employee can face huge emotional stress, fear and uncertainty. When that happens, trade unions will try to remove any additional stress and worry.
“UK Social Security legislation defines a terminal illness as: “a progressive disease where death as a consequence of that disease can reasonably be expected within six months”, however many patients can have a terminal illness and survive much longer than that… and they deserve to be protected when they are at their most vulnerable.
“We already have cross parliamentary support for this campaign however we need to wait for domestic policy to progress in order for us to change legislation. To do that, we need to demonstrate that authorities and businesses across the country are supporting our cause.
“By having Stanley Town Council sign up to the charter, we’re doing just that. We’re delighted to have them involved and working together, are looking forward to changing the lives of people not just in Stanley, but across the UK.”
Sometimes the nature of the illness is such that the person is unlikely to be able to work again. In other cases, a person may decide that they do not want to work anymore and would rather spend their remaining time with family and friends, getting affairs in order, or simply doing what they want.
However, many workers with a terminal diagnosis decide to continue working as long as they can, either because they need the financial security or because they find work a distraction. Whatever the choice, they should expect help and support from their employer. Unfortunately, the experience of many workers is an unsympathetic employer who puts up barriers to them continuing in work.
Cllr Marshall added: “There are few things more traumatic than being told that you are going to die as a result of a disease for which there is no cure.
“But if a worker with a terminal illness loses their job they lose their income. They can also lose any death in service payments they have earned through a life-time of work – by backing the Dying to Work Charter, we are saying that we do not agree with this, that something has to change and that we, as a society, must do better to offer support to people when they need it most.”