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Decisions about work and palliative care

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  • work and palliative care
  • Posted date:
  • 26-07-2016
Decisions about work and palliative care

Decisions about work and palliative care

When you are diagnosed with a terminal illness it can be difficult to make decisions about work and the future. Some people want to carry on working because they love their job, need the money or appreciate the regular routine and sense of normality. For others, having a life limiting condition can make them reassess their aims and ambitions. 

They may feel that leaving work will allow them to spend more time with loved ones or give them the opportunity to rest or travel. Some people simply feel too weak and unwell to cope with the daily grind. There is no right answer. It’s important to make the right choice for you and your family, considering your health, your finances and the treatments available to you.

Your rights as an employee

No matter how fit and well you feel at the moment, in the eyes of the law a terminally ill person is usually considered to be disabled. That may be difficult for you to accept emotionally but it does provide you with important legal rights. Your employer will not be allowed to fire you or try to make you redundant because of your condition.

You don’t have to inform your employer about your illness or your prognosis. However, by being open and honest, you may find that they are more flexible and supportive. Disclosing your condition will also help legally, in that you will be protected by discrimination law if you’re unfairly treated as a result of something related to your illness or disability.

Your employer also has a legal responsibility to make reasonable adaptations to satisfy your ongoing needs at work. This could include working flexible hours, taking time off for treatment, adopting different duties or spending time working from home. 

Try not to make any hasty decisions. Consider all the options available and discuss your choice with your family and your healthcare team. If you need extra information and advice, Macmillan has loads of information on their website or contact the Equality Advisory Support Service which runs a helpline for people who have issue relating to equality and human rights.

Clients and colleagues

Your boss shouldn’t disclose your illness to anyone without your explicit permission. Some people prefer to withhold their diagnosis so that colleagues continue to treat them in the same way, the normality can be comforting in a time of tension and change. 

However, you may find that by sharing your difficult news, your colleagues will be more supportive, helpful and understanding of any changes to your responsibilities or way of working or need to take time off.

When you can no longer manage at work

At some stage the impact of your disease will mean that you are unable to continue coping at work. This can be difficult emotionally and financially. Work may have been the focus for much of your life and it can be difficult to adapt to the loss as well as dealing with the fact that you are no longer healthy enough to continue. It can help to talk through your feelings. 

Chatting to a trusted friend or family member can be beneficial but sometimes it’s useful to talk to someone outside your close circle, so ask for counselling if you are struggling to adjust.

Remember to think through the financial implications before you quit. Giving up work can affect statutory sick pay, critical illness policies and life insurance, so check carefully before you sign on the dotted line. Talk to the human resources department at work so that you understand your rights and contact a solicitor or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau if you are concerned. 

You may be able to claim your pension early, claim on critical illness cover or on employee private medical insurance so explore all your options so that you can ensure your family’s financial security.

Find out more about the range of palliative care services that we offer throughout London.