If you are having trouble getting back to work

Some pointers for breaking through brick walls

Macmillan is involved in discussions around changing the law to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against cancer patients.  The idea is good, but they need to involve representatives from Unions, ACAS, HR Depts., Employers, Institute of Personnel Directors, etc. at the planning stages, not just to lend their support at the finish.

Why?  Because we all want to get back to work – but if we are ‘shoehorned’ back into the workforce, this will only cause resentment amongst colleagues; employers might not be too happy either.  Forget about the days of the big bad employer;  some still exist, but the majority of British companies are SMEs (small and medium enterprises) who may employ less than ten people.

So before you demand your old job back – it might help

1.  To think if your old company has got the funding to support a part-time worker?

  • Will they mind if you constantly have to take time off for hospital visits?
  • Take an hour off each afternoon for a rest?
  • Possibly need to stay in hospital for treatment?

2.  Your old workmates have probably been incredibly supportive, telling you they can’t wait for you to get back  to work – but things might change if they see you

  • Constantly taking time off for which they have to cover
  • See you taking a rest every afternoon – when they think they are just as tired
  • Resent that you are given so much help, when they have a sick child or parent to look after and would love some time off.

In the States, they are considering legislation on the same lines, but there they are more practical.  Some of the suggestions are that the returning employees offer to take a pro-rata cut in salary, until they are able to resume full-time working.  And to have an official meeting with bosses and colleagues, explain approx. how much time you expect to have to take off, even give a calendar of dates if you know them.  But to be as open and forthcoming as possible with fellow workers, even if you don’t want to talk about it.

So this change in law, to benefit us in every way, needs a very sensitive approach.  And more involvement from ‘the other side’, who will be wanting to help cancer patients, but also face the reality of favouring one employee over another, how to arrange cover so work for the rest doesn’t suffer, and in these dreadful ‘credit crunch’ days, have to face bank managers and shareholders, who have invested in a company and want everyone working to their maximum hours.

Getting work

There ae many online companies, who hire people to work from home on websites.  This is NOT the type of work that pays a few pounds for a week’s work – this is paid sensibly, but enables you to choose the hours you want to work.  Not ideal for everyone, but if you have the skills and are prepared to be indoors – they could provide a life-line.

But I don’t have time to go through all the hoops to set this up – it needs a charity to do this.

When I did get on to the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative,  I asked why the NHS hadn’t involved those with cancer?  Back came a PC answer that they weren’t allowed to ask if someone had had cancer, or to discriminate in our favour.

This is nonsense.

Equality legislation explicitly permits ‘more favourable treatment’ of disabled people (S. 13(3) of the 2010 Equality Act) and this means that it’s perfectly permissible to target job opportunities/job creation at people living with cancer.

Currently the Department of Health is silent, hasn’t replied to my email asking why they don’t employ people who have had cancer as paid Consultants for suitable jobs, and has stone-walled every attempt I have made to find out how we get on this highly secret list of approved Consultants.  The old definition of a Consultant (the way the Government employs them) is, ‘ employing someone to tell you what you know’.

There has been a lot in the media recently about the amount these part-time employees cost the NHS, but where it would seem sensible to employ them – we are frozen out of this lucrative employment opportunity.  However, charities that keep a list of volunteers often have a basic CV in their database – so they could alert us to possible paid work when it involves cancer and the NHS.  And currently there are a massive amount of ‘initiatives’ going the rounds for which I am sure there are an army of consultants beavering away setting these up, writing reports, etc.

The Good News

Look under events;  there is an one on 29th October that is paying a small honorarium.  This is a start, and let’s hope more follow.

Then the charity RADAR (Royal Association for Disability Rights) is a group of over 900 disability charities and some individuals.  Whilst I am writing this, they are holding their AGM to discuss ‘The Equality Act 2010 and Health & Social Care – is equality for disabled people being strengthened or weakened?’

Public Affairs Manager Marije Davidson says their mission is “a fair and equal society in which human difference is seen as a strength. To achieve our aims of full and equal citizenship for all disabled people we work closely with a wide range of partners across the private, public and voluntary sector.  We shine a light on good practice on disability equality and inclusion, so that it may be replicated.  And we challenge violations of disabled people’s human rights to dignity, freedom, choice, control, equality and participation, helping get laws changed and showing how disabled people can be involved in creating solutions.

What to do if you think you are being treated unfairly

Ask your MP to write to the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health  (Una O’Brien).  However much you want to write direct, letters from the public get answered by a lowly desk officer.  But a Minister HAS to reply to an MP.

Marije suggests you mention that RADAR, the largest pan-impairment campaigning organisation in the UK, supports involvement of people with lived experiences in policy planning and service development – with effective involvement from the beginning, organisations are more likely to get policy planning and service development right; however effective involvement also means valuing people for their contribution.  Marije says you may find this guide useful: http://www.dotheduty.org/files/Involving_disabled_people.pdf

As she says, most people living with ill-health, injury or disability, with the right support and flexibility, can work.

But cancer patients aren’t getting this, even when they could be usefully employed instead of consultants, PR companies, etc. by the charities they support.

You may also find RADAR’s report ‘Supporting Sustainable Careers’ useful – as well as their  Manifesto, which you can also find on  http://www.radar.org.uk/radarwebsite/tabid/277/default.aspx ; and you can find Supporting Sustainable Careers is here: http://www.radar.org.uk/radarwebsite/RadarFiles/publications/Supporting%20Sustainable%20Careers,%20July%202010%20%28low-res%29.pdf.

But if you find that you just can’t face going back to full-time work – you might contact your local Job Centre.  Think about what type of part-time work you might like to change to, and see what they can offer.  Unless this affects you benefits, don’t think about the low salary you may be offered;  treat this as a learning curve to discover what’s out there.  Once you have a bit of experience you will be better armed to go for a better paid position.

And good luck!

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