Working life: Reintegration in the workplace
Published Feb 22, 2019 • By Louise Bollecker
A new study* has provided results on how having cancer can impact someone's career. What can we conclude from this?
How can you adapt your work when you have a chronic illness? What are the standards in force from one country to another?
Feeling left behind, flexible working hours, the status of disabled workers... all these themes resonate particularly with the chronically ill. Their professional careers are often disrupted by the disease. The study conducted by researchers in January 2019 showed that the probability of being employed at least one quarter of the year is significantly lower in the year following the diagnosis of cancer than in the year before prior. For the five years after the diagnosis, there is a noticeable increase in sick days and an increase in inactivity.
The type of cancer affects differently one's career/employment
The study distinguished occupational trajectories according to the type of cancer the patient has. For women, ovarian cancer has the most negative career consequences, followed by breast cancer. In men, prostate cancer has mild consequences at the time but the effects are felt over the long term. In all cancer patients, lung and bronchial cancers have the greatest impact on working life, while thyroid cancer has little impact on career/employment.
The study concludes that employers play a major role and should be encouraged to combat the discrimination often inflicted upon those diagnosed with cancer or a chronic illness
Chronic diseases and working life: what solutions should be implemented?
Cancer is not the only disease that can affect one's career. Any illness that has an impact on one's moral, emotional and/or physical fitness, or mental health may impact to some degree one's career/employment and may justify certain work accommodations. Do not hesitate to talk to a health professional about it.
In some countries, such as France, a medical examination is mandatory in the context of employment. The physician, is then, the patient's main contact if accomodations are required in one's employment, such as work space and schedule.
Laws to employ the disabled....
Similarly, the status of being disabled, applied in France and Luxembourg, makes it possible to recognize patients' rights in the professional world. Some countries, mainly in Europe, have introduced the obligation to employ the disabled. In France, this enforcement applies to employers with more than 20 employees; in such a company, up to 6% of the workforce most be composed of disabled workers or face a penalty. Germany, Italy, and Spain have similar policies in effect.
Laws to fight against disability discrimination?
In contrast, in the United Kingdom, the only law governing is the Equality Act of 2010, which protects against all forms of discrimination (age, sex, origin, disability, etc.). Financial assistance, called Access-to-Work, can also be provided to patients to better equip themselves to return to the workforce.
In the United States, the American with Disabilities Act advocates an inclusive approach, fighting for equal opportunities. It is also a case-by-case approach, with no particular employment obligation for companies to employ the disabled.
Do you think that companies should be forced to hire a certain number of disabled workers? What policy would you put in place?
Have you ever experienced discrimination because of an illness? Have you ever experienced discrimination after returning to work after an illness?
Give us your opinion and share your experience to help others lead a fulfilling professional life!
*Thomas Barnay et al, "L'effet des cancers sur la trajectoire professionnelle", Questions d'économie de la santé, n° 238, December 2018. Study based on the Hygie administrative database.