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The terminally ill are dying to work

3 min read

When people are battling a terminal illness, they shouldn't have to fight for employment protection, says Pauline Latham MP. 

In 2012, a constituent of mine, Jacci Woodcock was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer – but the greatest fight of her life – to stay alive – has come in parallel with another battle.

Jacci was treated very badly by her employer. She was provided with no support and the company even tried to sack her. 

Beset with worries about her health, her anxiety was heightened by the fear of losing her job and not being able to pay the bills which were coming in.

But Jacci is a fighter – she wanted to work and recognised the injustice of being forced out of her job, simply because of her diagnosis.

Evidence that she should have been allowed to continue to work lies in the fact that six years later she is still with us and has been campaigning hard for the end of discrimination against people with her condition.

Her ‘Dying to Work’ campaign, for additional employment protection for terminally ill workers, has gained cross-party support and that of her union, the GMB. She wants a change in the law to be her legacy.

By signing the Dying To Work charter, employers are agreeing that they will give due consideration to terminally ill employees and protect their jobs.

It is so important to those in this position that they have meaning to their lives rather than be defined by the disease which is killing them.

It has been my privilege to back Jacci’s cause in Parliament and beyond. Many companies, including major ones such as Rolls-Royce, Bombardier, E.ON and Santander, have signed the charter as have scores of public bodies across the country.

At an event held in parliament in December, MPs provided a commitment to their own staff, should they become terminally ill, by signing the charter.

This week, at Prime Minister’s Questions, I was able to reveal that Jacci’s mortgage provider, Santander, has been incredibly helpful by freezing her payments and agreeing to take them from her estate after she dies and now agreeing not to freeze their interest.

Santander has shown care and compassion and now I would encourage other banks to follow its example and to handle the accounts of terminally ill people in the same way.

There are three key needs for terminally ill patients. Above all is the love of family and friends but money and self-worth are also imperative.

If, as a society, we can tick the latter two boxes by ensuring that their cases are handled with humanity by employers and financial institutions we will have come far and Jacci’s legacy, which is already hugely impressive, will be truly remarkable.

Her work on this campaign has inspired me and many others. Her great dignity and determination deserve the success which Dying To Work has already achieved and will continue to do so.

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