At North Staffs Trades Council this evening, we heard about one of the latest TUC initiatives - the Dying to Work campaign. It turns out - and I didn't know this - that workers diagnosed with a terminal illness are not protected under workplace legislation. Unlike pregnant women who cannot (or rather, should not) be sacked under the law for any diminished capability during the course of their pregnancy, terminally ill workers can. This can lead to a loss of any death-in-work benefits that might be accrued during the course of one's employment, as well as a sudden loss of income, added stress as the employer shows their "appreciation" by turfing them out of work, and can attack a person's sense of dignity. Surely it's up to them how they spend their remaining few months?
The TUC - rightly - are campaigning for the law to be changed. Workers should not be cast off at an employer's whim.
Below I've reproduced Dying to Work's standard letter for MPs. There's plenty of other things you can do from your computer screen too. If someone is unfortunate to receive a terminal diagnosis, they should not have to worry about the stress of losing income and other work-related death benefits that will go to assist their family members.
Re: Dying to Work campaign
I am writing to urge you to pledge your support to the Midlands TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ campaign.
As you will know, the Equality Act provides protections against discriminatory treatment based on the concept of ‘Protected Characteristics.’ However, currently workers with a terminal illness are not classified as having a Protected Characteristic and therefore have very limited legal protection against employers dismissing them due to illness.
Unfortunately this means that employers are therefore free to dismiss terminally ill workers once they have made ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the employee’s job to assist with the illness. I am sure you will agree with me that the last thing a terminally ill worker needs is to have to fight for the right to continue working and not to face the indignity of being sacked.
Furthermore, the loss of death in service benefits to terminally ill workers sacked before death is a further distress at a time when security for a family for the future should be protected.
I therefore hope that you are able to support the ‘Dying to Work Campaign’ and to work with the campaign to help introduce new legislation that
- Seeks to get terminally ill workers covered by Protective Rights at Work in line with those covered by Pregnancy/Maternity Rights
- Seeks to protect death in service benefits
- Seeks to allow workers with terminal illness to die in dignity
To find out more about the campaign please do email Lee Barron at the Midlands TUC firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to your response