Councillors have agreed to support a campaign to improve the employment rights of terminally ill workers and will help lobby MPs to change legislation.
Northamptonshire County councillors unanimously backed a proposal on Thursday (September 19) to support the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ campaign currently being developed in the Midlands.
The campaign seeks to get terminally ill workers covered by protective rights at work in line with those covered by pregnancy and maternity rights, to protect death in service benefits, and to allow workers with terminal illnesses to die in dignity.
The motion was proposed by the Labour party as part of its opposition business but was supported by Conservatives, Lib Dems and independents alike.
Labour leader Councillor Bob Scott said: “The Equality Act provides protections against discriminatory treatment based on the concept of ‘protected characteristics’. Currently workers with a terminal illness are not classified as having a protected characteristic and therefore have very limited legal protection against employers dismissing them due to illness.
“Employers are therefore free to dismiss terminally ill workers once they have made ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the employee’s job to assist with the illness. The last thing a terminally ill worker would need is the distress at the same time as facing up to a terminal illness is to have to fight for the right to continue working and not face the indignity of being sacked.”
Conservative cabinet member Councillor Sandra Naden-Horley told councillors that her party would back the motion. She said: “The principles in this charter are already supported by NCC. We will always try to do what’s best for people in their individual circumstances.”
Fellow Conservative, Dr Andy Mercer, added: “I thought surely this is something that was already in legislation, that if someone was dismissed when they are terminally ill surely they have grounds for wrongful dismissal. Apparently not.
“It’s a matter of common decency that you treat people well. If you dismiss someone because they are terminally ill then you should be ashamed of yourself, and you should be named and shamed.”
The Dying to Work charter states: “This is about choice. It’s about giving an individual options around how they want to proceed at work. In some cases, an individual will want to continue to work for as long as they can, for financial security or because work can be a helpful distraction from their illness.
“In other cases a person may decide that they do not want to work anymore and would rather spend their remaining time with family and friends, getting their affairs in order, or simply doing what they want. Whatever choice a person makes they should expect help and support from their employer.”