Help a worker with a critical illness

Workers with cancer or other critical illnesses

As an OHS rep or delegate, you may represent a worker who has been diagnosed with a critical illness - which may or may not be work-related.

Almost one in three Australians are or will be directly affected by cancer - many of them workers.  Being diagnosed with cancer causes fear and affects every aspect of a person's life, including their ability to work.  While many cancers can be cured, the tests and treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, may mean time spent in hospital and recuperating.  In addition, the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of treatment may affect a person's ability to work as effectively as before their illness.  For some people this will be temporary, but others may need to make changes to their work or give up work permanently.

Some people may wish to continue to work, if they can, or return to work as soon as possible.  Others may decide to retire early or may be unable to continue to work in any capacity.

It may be worthwhile considering developing a cancer and working policy for the workplace.  This is something that either health and safety representatives, and/or the OHS committee could raise for consideration at their workplace.  This policy could apply equally to any employee with a critical illness and be helpful in encouraging an open environment where workers who are affected can raise concerns and not be stigmatised.  A very useful publication has been developed by a group of UK organisations: Cancer and Working - Guidelines for Employers, HR and Line Managers [pdf].  The publication includes a template policy and provides useful and practical advice for workplaces.

(Acknowledgement: This material has been taken - with thanks - from the guidelines which were produced as a collaboration between UK groups Cancerbackup; the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development [CIPD] and the Working with Cancer [WwC] group)

Last amended May 2015

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